President Muhammadu Buhari, on Sunday, 7th July, 2019, at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government, in Niamey, Niger Republic, signed the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). President Buhari’s signature was a bold step forward for Nigeria, African trade integration and Nigeria’s leadership in the AU. At the Closed-Door Session of the Summit, the President stated that: • “The AfCFTA can be a platform for African manufacturers of goods and providers of services to construct regional value chains for made-in-Africa goods and services.” • “As Leaders on the Continent and architects of the African Union, our attention should now focus on implementing the AfCFTA in a way that grows our economies and creates jobs for our youthful, dynamic and hardworking population.” Ambassador Osakwe, Nigeria’s Chief Trade Negotiator, in speaking to the media in Niamey, stated that: • “President Buhari has demonstrated a remarkable leadership commitment to the due process of the rule of law for trade integration, openness to trade and investment, in a period in the global economy that has been characterized by protectionism.” The feedback in Niamey has been positive to President Buhari’s messages on the predictability and fairness of trade rules, made-in-Africa goods and services, with rules-based safeguards against dumping and injurious trade practices. Background Nigeria is now signed onto the largest trade pact in the world, involving 54 countries. Eritrea is the only non-signatory at the moment. After signing the agreement, President Buhari said: “I wish to assure you that Nigeria shall sustain its strong leadership role in Africa, in the implementation of the AfCFTA. We shall continue to engage, constructively with all African countries to build the Africa that we want.” The AfCFTA aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments. The Agreement covers Protocol on Trade in Goods and Services, Rules and Procedure on Settlement of Disputes, Investment, Competition Policy, and Intellectual Property Rights. In addition, it seeks to expand intra-Africa trade which currently stands at low 16%, in contrast to other regions and continents. In the EU, intra-regional trade is 65-70%, and in APEC (Asia-Pacific) 70%. UNECA has estimated that the AfCFTA can boost intra-African trade to 60% by 2022. Recall that the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed at the 10th Extraordinary Summit of the AU Assembly on 21st March, 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Before Nigeria signed the Agreement in Niamey, NOTN conducted a nation-wide Stakeholder Sensitization and Consultation exercise in all the 6 geopolitical zones of the country. It was an exercise without precedent in Nigeria’s political economy: • 35 groups, associations and governance institutions were consulted; • 3,500 natural persons were engaged in the various sessions and meetings; • 5 Communiques were adopted and signed in 5 geopolitical zones. In the case of the South West Geopolitical Zone, held in Lagos, a Factual Summary was issued. The communiques and Factual Summary can be found on the NOTN website; • 300 hours were invested in the exercise; • 12 private sector groups submitted inputs, conveying their group positions on the AfCFTA, in response to the nation-wide call for inputs; The nation-wide sensitization was substantive and set a standard for openness and transparency. The AfCFTA Agreement entered into force on 30th May, 2019 after meeting the threshold of 22 deposits of instruments of ratification, as prescribed in Article 23 of the Agreement. Ghana has been confirmed as the location for the AfCFTA Secretariat.