By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday canvassed for the speedy establishment of a single, unified market in Africa to increase trade, create more jobs and reduce poverty.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the President made the call while presenting 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, during the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Buhari stated that: “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.”
Noting that the continent had missed the timeline set by the African Union (AU) in January 2012 to establish the CFTA in 2017, he said African leaders still had the opportunity to set it up by March 2018.
Justifying Nigeria’s vote for the CFTA, the President said: “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.”
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. 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.”
The President argued further that, “If we increase our trade, we grow faster, create more jobs and reduce poverty. Thus, with CFTA, our continent will be more integrated, united and prosperous.”
He noted that the “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.”
The Nigerian leader urged his African colleagues to also look beyond the economic benefits of the CFTA, stressing that it will “be another step in uniting Africa and consolidating the architecture of the African Union. “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.”Buhari, who commended President Issoufou on his role as the “AU Champion for the CFTA”, whose work “has significantly advanced our goal to conclude and launch the CFTA,” also lauded 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.