President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday promised that he would soon sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to facilitate growth in the continent in a way that job creation and local industries would be enhanced.
He made the promise after he held a closed door meeting with the visiting South African President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, at the Presidential Villa Abuja.
The President fielded questions from newsmen at the end of the bi-lateral meeting where both economic giants in the continent also agreed to strengthen the bi-national commission and pursue Africa-focused foreign policy.
He said: “I am very careful about what I sign, whether it is my cheque book or agreements especially when it involves nation states.
“As your President (Ramaphosa) has said we are so populated and we have so many young unemployed citizen and our industries are just coming up.
“So in trying to guarantee employment, goods and services to our country we have to be careful with agreements that will compete, maybe successfully, against our own upcoming industries.’’
“I was presented with the document, I did not read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was not right for signature, I kept it on my table.“I will soon sign it.’’.
The AfCFTA is expected to cover 1.2 billon Africans with Gross Domestic Product of 2.5 trillion dollars, and in 2050 it would cover four billion Africans, constituting 36 per cent of the global population.
The agreement is expected to increase intra-African trade from the current 16 per cent to 53 per cent with a corresponding GDP growth and increase employment and job creation on the continent.
49 African countries have signed the agreement, leaving Nigeria and others.