The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said Wednesday that the Federal Government would thoroughly examine the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, before signing it.
Adeosun said this at the 2018 Annual Meetings of the Afreximbank, with the theme, “Powering Africa Through Regional Integration,” in Abuja.
She said the trade agreement was too important for the country to sign without ensuring that the interest of its people was protected.
She said the government had embarked on nationwide consultations with state governments, local government authorities, manufacturers and other stakeholders.
The minister revealed that the government had almost concluded the consultations and would soon take a decision on whether to sign the agreement or not.
“We have been doing a lot of consultations around the country with manufacturers and other stakeholders. People are asking legitimate questions about how the AfCFTA affects them.
“We must get things right and that is why we must follow due process so that we can say that we have done all the things that we are expected to do. So that is simply what has been happening in the last few months,” she said.
Meanwhile, the President of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramphosa, said apart from improving intra-African trade, the AfCFTA would also improve its banking sector.
He said also the AfCFTA also offered great opportunities for other financiers and attract foreign direct Investment to the continent.
“With the signing of the AfCFTA, African banks will also be seeing great opportunities for infrastructure development.
“They will be seeing that African countries are now serious about developing trade and that itself will present opportunities for them.
“I know for a fact that the EU Development Bank have already highlighted the importance of the AfCFTA in relations to the development and the financing of infrastructure programmes.
“This is because they have already seen great business opportunities for a number of entrepreneurs as well as countries,” he said.
Ramphosa also spoke about the need for collaboration between the private and public sectors to bridge the huge infrastructure deficit on the continent.
The AfCFTA is expected to cover 1.2 billion Africans with Gross Domestic Product of $2.5 trillion, and would cover four billion Africans, constituting 36 per cent of the global population in 2050.
The agreement is expected to increase intra-African trade from the current 16 per cent to 53 percent, with a corresponding GDP growth and increase employment and job creation on the continent.
Forty-nine African countries have signed the agreement, leaving Nigeria and a few others.