President Muhammadu Buhari has called for the speedy establishment of a single-unified market in Africa to increase trade, create more jobs, and reduce poverty on the continent.
The President made the call on Monday while addressing African leaders at the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He was briefing the leaders on Nigeria’s position in favour of the report on the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and related issues presented by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic.
“It is Nigeria’s position that as African leaders and principal architects of our union, we must now speed up action to conclude the negotiations and establish the CFTA,” President Buhari said in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.
Noting that the continent has missed the timeline set by the African Union (AU) in January 2012 to establish the CFTA in 2017, he was optimistic that African leaders still had the opportunity to set it up by March 2018.
“In a rapidly changing global economy, with much uncertainty, we believe that the establishment of a CFTA would provide Africa with tremendous opportunity to achieve significant growth driven by intra-African trade,” the President said in justifying Nigeria’s vote for the CFTA.
According to him, while the stakes in setting up CFTA are no doubt very high, the benefits are wide-ranging and significant.
“The primary objective is economic namely, for trade in goods and services on the continent”, President Buhari said.
“A single, unified market would lead to a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement amongst African Union Member States. If we integrate Africa’s market for trade in goods and services, we will not only double intra-African trade, but also negotiate with other regions or continents on trade matters,” he added.
The President further argued that if Africa increases its trade, the people would grow faster, create more jobs, and reduce poverty.
He reiterated that Africa would be more integrated, united and prosperous with the CFTA.
“CFTA will carry significant welfare gains associated with increased production, consumption and revenue. It will generate more economic growth, enhance efficiency and support enterprise and innovation,” said President Buhari.
He then urged his colleagues at the summit to also look beyond the economic benefits of the CFTA, stressing that it would “be another step in uniting Africa and consolidating the architecture of the African Union.”
In his words, the Nigerian leader stated: “The establishment of the CFTA is also the first step for the African Union in the implementation of “Agenda 2063” for the socio-economic transformation of the continent, as well as being a building block in the achievement of the goals of the 1991 Abuja Treaty on the African Economic Community.”
He further commended President Issoufou on his role as the “AU Champion for the CFTA”.
President Buhari described his Nigerien counterpart as a leader whose work “has significantly advanced our goal to conclude and launch the CFTA.”
He also commended the technical support provided by the AU Commission, with Nigeria serving as the Chair of the Negotiating Forum and Chairperson of the AU Ministers of Trade.
Considering the huge benefits of the CFTA, the President said Nigeria welcomed the idea and called on AU Member States to lend their strategic support without delay.