Chiedu Osakwe, Nigeria’s chief trade negotiator said the country’s decision to back down from this week’s signing of the new pan-African continental free trade area in Rwanda, was “in the national interest of a great and diverse country”.
According to Channels Television, Osakwe said in an email that the government wants to “deepen, intensify and extend the scope of consultations on a number of areas.”
The areas listed include sectoral and systemic issues, as well as the “aggregated and granular effects” of the new free trade deal for Nigeria’s “fiscal, structural and monetary policies”.
He, however, added that Nigeria will not be absent in Kigali as Geoffrey Onyeama, the foreign affairs minister, will be representing the country and supported by a Nigerian team.
The Federal Executive Council had on Wednesday last week, approved for the President to sign the framework agreement for establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Contrary to Osakwe’s statement on Nigeria’s presence in Kigali, Tope Adeleye, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement Sunday said that the trip had been cancelled.
According to Adeleye, certain key stakeholders in the country indicated that they had not been consulted, and therefore had some concerns about the provisions of the treaty.
Consequently, the development was to allow more time for broader consultations and input from the stakeholders.
All leaders of Africa’s 55 countries are expected at the event in Kigali.
The AfCFTA will make the continent the largest free trade area created since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
The launch will take place at an Extraordinary Meeting of the Heads of State of the African Union convened by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the new Chairperson of the AU who said of the AfCFTA: “This is a historic pact which has been nearly 40 years in the making, and it represents a major advance for African integration and unity.”
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki, says the African Continental Free Trade Area will also strengthen Africa’s position in global trade.
“AfCFTA will make Africa one of the largest economies in the world and enhance its capacity to interact on equal terms with other international economic blocs.”
On the 20th of March, a day before the signing, government delegations will join Africa’s top business leaders and other stakeholders to exchange views on the continent’s economic transformation through trade at a special day of celebration and dialogue called the AfCFTA Business Summit.