AU Urges to Promote National Agendas to Favor Free Trade

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Addis Ababa African leaders' hopes of establishing the world's largest free trade area have been hit by the withdrawal of Nigeria from the launch.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will not attend the African Union summit in Rwanda this week, an official statement said Sunday, in a blow to plans to launch a major free trade treaty across 54 countries.

The extraordinary meeting of the heads of state of the African Union is convened by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is also the chairperson of the AU.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-Africa trade by 53 percent by eliminating import duties and non-tariff barriers.

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Currently, African countries only do about 16 per cent of their business with each other.

The Summit is expected to consider and conclude issues related to the AfCFTA and adopt the Agreement on the Establishment of the AfCFTA.

With underdeveloped service and industrial sectors across the continent, African countries have for decades seen their fortunes rise and fall with the prices of exported commodities such as oil, cocoa and gold. The AfCFTA could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion US dollars, the pan-African bloc said.

Regional integration "is critical to reduce the vulnerability of African economies to global shocks, a vulnerability which results from their heavy reliance on commodities", South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies wrote in an editorial last week.

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National President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba in a statement in Abuja, said that signing the agreement was "extremely unsafe and radioactive neo-liberal policy initiative being driven by the Ministry of Trade and Investment that seeks to open our seaports, airports and other businesses to unbridled foreign interference never before witnessed in the history of the country".

The AfCFTA is a flagship project of Agenda 2063, the African Union's long-term vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

"If there is no reward for compliance and there is no punishment for non-compliance, then it is going to be a very nice agreement without any teeth or any legs", he said.

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