Uganda gets double thoughts on Continental Free Trade Area agreement

Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of East African Community Affairs to first scrutinise the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreements before Uganda appends its signature to the documents.

The African head of governments agreed to establish a Continental Free Trade Area in 2012 during the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa.

However, negotiations and drafting of the agreement started in 2015 with a target of making the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), one of Africa's flagship projects and a crucial driver for economic growth, industrialization and sustainable development in Africa.

The agreement seeks to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Customs Union.

It will also expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across the continent. The CFTA is also expected to enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through the exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

The agreement is supposed to be signed by 53 recognized African countries apart from Nigeria, and Western Sahara and Somaliland - whose self-declared independence has never been recognized.

Information Minister, Frank Tumwebaze while addressing journalists on cabinet resolutions said the two ministries will try to scrutinize the agreement to see whether Uganda and East African Community will gain or lose in terms of trade when they open borders to other African countries.

He said ministers raised eyebrows in regard to the agreement after learning that Nigeria pulled out the agreement on Sunday. Nigeria President Muhammad Buhari on Sunday said he would not be travelling to Kigali for the signing of the agreement because "certain key stakeholders in Nigeria indicated that they had not been consulted, for which reasons they had some concerns on the provisions of the treaty."

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), an organization which brings together trade unions in Nigeria urged the government to snub the deal which it claims will "spell the death knell of the Nigerian economy." Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy, oil producer and most populous nation with over 190 million people.

When asked why government willing to sign the agreement that it is scrutinizing, Tumwebaze argued that signing is okay. "You can sign today and raise issues tomorrow. There is no problem. The ministry of trade convinced cabinet that it's a good agreement. Cabinet gave her the go-ahead to sign."


Adopted from URN

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