AfCFTA: FG sets private sector as priority

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Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said the Federal Government will not force other African countries that have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement to make adjustments to the framework.

Osinbajo stated this in Lagos at the Financial Times Nigeria Summit. He said President Muhammadu Buhari did not sign the agreement in March because he wanted to satisfy the demands of the private sector.

The AfCFTA treaty is one of the flagship projects of the African Union Agenda 2063, and is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons. On March 21, 2018, 44 African heads of state and government officials met in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign the framework to establish the AfCFTA.

Osinbajo said, “Many felt, as we went into the whole process, that sufficient consultations haven’t been done. Manufacturers’ association, in particular, and several others, felt that we shouldn’t go into this without further consultation, and they wanted to know exactly what the specifics will be in terms of the negotiations that will follow the signing of the framework.

“And it was the President’s opinion that it would be much wiser for us to suspend the signing until such a time as all these engagements are done to the satisfaction of the private sector.”

Asked if Nigeria would sign the agreement, the Vice President said, “I don’t think the question is whether we will not sign. I think what we will sign is probably the more important thing for us. What sort of negotiations will go on? Don’t forget that Nigeria is the largest market; so, we have more to lose.

“There are countries that are waiting for this big Nigerian market to open up. But we have to be a lot more careful. The question for us is: what will we sign? How will it play out for our private sector people?”

Asked if Nigeria would force the countries that had already sign the agreement to take another look at it and make some adjustments, the Vice President said, “No; that is not even correct. Let me explain how it works: First, there is a framework; then the actual negotiations, and the actual negotiations haven’t started. So, we are going to negotiate.

“For us, it is important to sit back and take a look at those negotiations first before heading even into the framework, which is really what we are doing at the moment. Where we are at is that we are looking at the nitty-gritty. Really, we are not saying we are going to negotiate the framework; the framework is already there.

“Our major concern is with the specifics, and those specifics have to be negotiated, and we are at a point where before we go into that, we will certainly make sure that we are happy with the terms and conditions.”

Osinbajo also said the Federal Government was working on the sale of joint venture oil assets in a bid to generate more funds.

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