Obasanjo disappointed Buhari delayed signing Africa free trade deal

Nigeria's former president, Olusegun Obasanjo has joined the growing number of voices who believes the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to withdrawal from the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement, is a mistake.

The ex-president made this remark during his outing at the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday, which had as its tile:
‘When Leaders Make History’.

Obasanjo who was part of a presidential panel at the forum, alongside the President of Zimbabwe, Emerson Mnangagwa said, “That President Buhari didn’t sign the free trade agreement in Kigali is disappointing; I hope he signs it before it is too late.

“Egypt started the discussion on the formation of the Organisation of African Unity but didn’t conclude it and Nigeria took over. Nigeria was also central to the discussion of the free trade agreement, but I am surprised that the country withdrew from signing.”

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement -one of the flagship projects of the African Union Agenda 2063- aims to create a single market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons, investments and a single currency in the continent much like the European Union.

The treaty also commits countries to removing tariffs on 90 per cent of goods and to liberalise services, while items identified as sensitive, which make up the balance 10 per cent, will also be phased out later as tariff-free.

It is believed that the AfCFTA treaty would improve intra-African trade and enhance economic growth and sustainable development.

Buhari, in a statement issued, said he delayed signing the treaty to allow for more deliberations and input from stakeholders. A committee was set up to deliberate the issue before the President would sign the treaty.

On the need for increased youth and women participation in politics in Africa, Obasanjo, referencing Nigeria, said “In our own part of the world, we have not done enough in this regard. Since independence, we have never had any woman as president and VP; no woman has contested governorship election and won.

“In the coming dispensation, all organs of political parties should have 30 per cent slots for women, 30 per cent for the youth, and 40 per cent for the others.”

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