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Nigeria’s participation, key to success of African free trade agreement, says UN director

Nigeria’s participation is vital to the success of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Prof Dimitri Sanga, Head, UN Economic Commission for African (ECA), West Africa, has said.
Sanga expressed the view in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sideline of the ongoing 21st Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) for West Africa in Cotonou on Thursday.
“Nigeria is not only a key country in ECOWAS but also a key country in Africa and in the world.
“So, not having Nigeria sign the African Continental Trade Agreement is actually something that every African is worried about.
“The fact that Nigeria does not sign today does not mean that Nigeria will not sign tomorrow.
“We believe that Nigeria is looking at how it will affect its economy and people. After they know this, we believe that they will come on board,” he said.
Giving more reasons why Nigeria should sign, Sanga said it would enable entrepreneurs in the country to have access to a market of over 1.2 billion people.
He also said the deal would give Africa one voice and a better bargaining power when dealing with other countries in respect of trade.
Sanga added that the deal would attract additional foreign investments into the manufacturing sector, thereby creating avenue for better job creation.
He said ECA had submitted a report to ICE on the implication of admitting Morocco and Tunisia to the ECOWAS bloc.
“Let me be clear, our report does not state whether or not ECOWAS should admit these North African countries.
“It only looks at trade issues that may arise, bearing in mind that there may be legal issues, security, social, migration and economic issues like trade, investment and so on.
“We only looked at trade issue which is a tip of the iceberg.
“Our study which is based on trade issues only, we looked at the implications in terms of imports and exports from and outside ECOWAS and then we looked at how it would look like if ever Morocco joins ECOWAS.
“This means that whichever countries that have trade agreement with Morocco, will no longer be paying tariff.
“This is because Morocco will now be part of the Common External Tariff enjoyed by ECOWAS members,” he said.
Sanga said the ECA study looked at sector by sector gain and found that there were areas where ECOWAS would have the upper hand and areas where it would not.
He said that for instance, Morocco had a strong manufacturing sector, and joining the ECOWAS bloc would give it access to a market of about 350 million people.
“For Morocco it’s a plus, especially for its entrepreneurs, who deal in agribusiness.
“ECOWAS countries have comparative advantage in agriculture and extractive industry so they will find a ready market in Morocco as well,” he said.
The 21st session of ICE21 for West Africa is taking place in Cotonou from June 27 to June 29 with the theme, ‘Regional integration in West Africa: New challenges and prospects”.
Morocco formally expressed its desire to join the West African bloc in February 2017, citing strong, age-long ties with the sub-region as the rationale for its decision.
Tunisia also applied to become a full member of the bloc in August 2017.
Meanwhile, Mauritania, a founding member of ECOWAS, which left in 2000 to join the Arab Maghreb union, has applied for re-admission to the bloc.
The ECA, as a think-tank, found it appropriate to examine the potential economic implications related to an eventual admission of Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania to ECOWAS.