With a country of roughly 200 milion accounting for one fifth of the continent’s population and having Africa’s largest economy and market by far, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari took the right decision to abstain from signing Africa’s free trade pact.

Forty-nine out of the 55 members of the African Union have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, said AU chairperson Paul Kagame.

Kagame, who is also the Rwandan president, made the announcement in Nouakchott during the closing ceremony of the 31st summit of the 55-member African Union.

South Africa, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Lesotho and Burundi signed the AfCFTA in Nouakchott. South Africa, which has for over 300 years represented Europe’s presence and expansionism in Africa, stand to gain a lot from the trade pact. With the advantage of industries and manufacturing plants already established in South Africa, signing the pact would impede local growth and kill off budding manufacturing firms without government intervention.

A minimum of 22 ratifications are required to enable the AfCFTA to come into force, while 15 ratifications for the protocol on free movement of persons, right of residence and right of establishment.

The AfCFTA will be the largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, according to the AU.

It could create an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars, according to the pan-African bloc.

The AU said the deal was expected to improve the economic prosperity of the African nations removing barriers to trade, like tariffs and import quotas, allowing the free flow of goods and services between its members.

However, Nigeria and five other countries failed to sign the deal.

Countries that signed the AfCFTA Consolidated Text are Niger, Rwanda, Angola,

CAR., Chad, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, The Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Cote’d’Ivoire, Seychelles, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea.

Others are Morocco, Swaziland, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, DRC, Guinea, Liberia, Libya,

Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, South Sudan, Uganda, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sao Tome and Principle, Togo and Tunisia.

Nigeria, with her enormous market would be the target for other African countries, flooding the market with goods that would have been sourced domestically.

Until the market and industry is ripe and string enough to withstand the impact of free African trade, Nigeria is better off without it.

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