On Sunday, 7 July 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement in Niamey, Niger Republic.
The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said in Abuja on Sunday, 7 July 2019, that the president appended his signature to the treaty at the opening of the African Union (AU) Summit at exactly 10: 47 , local time.
The signing of the treaty by the Nigerian leader was witnessed by the African Heads of State and Government, delegates and representatives from the private sector, civil society and the media attending the twelfth Extraordinary Summit of the African Union on the Launch of the Operational Phase of the AfCFTA.
In his remarks shortly after signing the agreement, Buhari declared that Nigeria’s commitment to trade and African integration had never been in doubt nor was it ever under threat.
He told the Summit that Nigeria would build on the event by proceeding expeditiously with the ratification of the AfCFTA.
The Nigerian leader said: ‘‘Nigeria wishes to emphasize that free trade must also be fair trade.
‘‘As African leaders, our attention should now focus on implementing the AfCFTA in a way that develops our economies and creates jobs for our young, dynamic and hardworking population.
‘‘I wish to assure you that Nigeria shall sustain its strong leadership role in Africa, in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“We shall also continue to engage constructively with all African countries to build the Africa that we want.”
President Buhari also congratulated Ghana on being selected to host the Secretariat of the AfCFTA.
‘‘I have just had the honour of signing the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), on behalf of my country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
‘‘This is coming over a year since the AfCFTA Agreement was opened for signature in Kigali, Rwanda, at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union, on 21st March 2018.
‘‘In fact, you will recall that the treaty establishing the African Economic Community was signed in Abuja in 1991.
‘‘We fully understand the potential of the AfCFTA to transform trade in Africa and contribute towards solving some of the continent’s challenges, whether security, economic or corruption.
‘But it is also clear to us that for AfCFTA to succeed, we need the full support and buy-in of our private sector and civil society stakeholders and the public in general.
‘‘It is against this background that we embarked on an extensive nationwide consultation and sensitization programme of our domestic stakeholders on the AfCFTA,” he said.
Meanwhile, with Nigeria and Benin Republic signing the Agreement at the Summit, 54 out of 55 African countries have signed the world’s largest free trade area deal, encompassing 55 countries and 1.2 billion people.
Eritrea is the only African country yet to sign the agreement.
A total of 26 African countries have deposited instruments of ratification, with Gabon being the latest after depositing her instrument of ratification during the Extraordinary Summit.
The AfCFTA Agreement entered into force on 30 May 2019, 30 days after having received the twenty-second instrument of ratification on 29 April 2019 in conformity with legal provision.