President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday canvassed for the speedy establishment of a single, unified market in Africa to increase trade, create more jobs and reduce poverty.
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.
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, said the president made the presentation during the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
President Buhari said: “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.”
He noted that the continent had missed the timeline set by the African Union (AU) in Jan. 2012 to establish the CFTA in 2017.
The President, however, stated that African leaders still had the opportunity to set it up by March 2018.
While 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,’’ he said.
President Buhari 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.”
According to him, the CFTA will carry significant welfare gains associated with increased production, consumption and revenue.
He said it would also 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 would be another step in uniting Africa and consolidating the architecture of the African Union.
He said: “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 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.’’
He 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.
While 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.