Nigeria was obviously absent on Wednesday when African leaders signed the Largest Free Trade Agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing African Union summit, Obasanjo said the signing and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will enable a shift from dependence on assistance to increased trade.
Nigeria needs to carry out more consultations before the country can decide to either sign or jettison the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The chairperson said some technical issues remain to be overcome, relating in particular to the nature of the Secretariat of the Free Trade Area, the number of ratification required for the entry into force of the AfCFTA agreement and the admissibility of reservations.
"On the contrary, as we trade more among ourselves, African firms will become bigger, more specialised, and more competitive internationally".
The agreement would establish the world's largest free trade area through an agreement that covers the trade of goods and services, investments and intellectual property rights.
The Continental Free Trade Area has the potential to boost intra-African trade by 53 percent by eliminating import duties and non-tariff barriers.
African officials and experts also said there could still be challenges facing the operation of the AfCFTA.
Currently, Africa has regional economic communities such as the Economic Community of West African States, the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Summit host President Paul Kagame is the current chair of the AU.
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The treaty commits countries to removing tariffs on 90 per cent of goods, with 10 per cent of "sensitive items" to be phased in later.
He said numerous countries in the African continent rely on the Nigerian market for their goods, adding that any attempt to further open up the Nigerian market would jeopardize the industrialisation efforts of the Federal Government.
"You're talking about 1.2 billion [people] with a combined GDP of $2.2 trillion, so it's a huge market", he added, referring to the AU member states. "That is an area that is of great concern to us", Jacob said.
Buhari's decision to postpone signing was a setback for the deal as Nigeria is one of the continent's economic powerhouses.
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