Ramaphosa urges Nigeria's Buhari to support African free-trade agreement
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday encouraged Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to sign a continent-wide free-trade deal.
The South African leader urged Buhari’s administration to take its time in consulting the deal before agreeing to it but said that he but shouldn’t “take too long”.
At a conference Wednesday in the West African nation’s capital Abuja, Ramaphosa said: “The continent is waiting for Nigeria and South Africa. By trading among ourselves, we are able to retain more resources in the continent.”
Talks for a trade deal that would encompass the entire African continent, an area with a combined gross domestic product of more than $3trn, began in 2015 before Ghana and Kenya became the first two countries to ratify the deal in May.
The deal will eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade of goods and services if a minimum of 22 members ratify it.
President Ramaphosa signed up to the agreement last week in Mauritania and said that South Africa will ratify the deal “soon”.
South Africa and Nigeria are the continents heavy hitters, accounting for roughly half of its GDP, but the latter country is exercising caution for fear of making an economic mistake according to Nigerian finance minister Kemi Adeosun.
A report from the African Export-Import Bank showed that, although intra-African trade is shrinking, South Africa, Namibia and Nigeria accounted for more than 35% of intra-Africa trade last year.
The report projected that a successful free-trade agreement could reverse the decline and actually increase intra-Africa trade by at least half by 2022.
“An integrated African market is also likely to see enhanced flow of foreign direct investment and could shift FDI from natural resources to industry and manufacturing as investors seek to take advantage of increased market size,” the bank said in the report.