President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Britain to strengthen trade deals with African countries, which will enhance mutual benefits, create jobs and boost economic activities in the Commonwealth, post – Brexit. Buhari, in a letter published by the Independent of London, stated that such deals must be “one based on cooperation in fairer – and freer – trade.”
“Two years after the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, my country Nigeria and her African partners seek a new settlement with Britain: one based on cooperation in fairer – and freer – trade. President Buhari noted that the United Kingdom UK and Nigeria share a deep and special partnership, championing for peace and security in Africa.
“We are custodians of the Commonwealth. Yet in recent years our relationship, particularly on trade, has been defined by Britain’s membership of the European Union. It meant being part of attempts to cajole individual African nations into lopsided European bilateral economic partnership agreements”
He noted that Nigeria had rejected such a deal in 2018, as it sought only to prioritise beneficial terms for raw commodities export to Europe while erecting high tariff barriers to goods manufactured and processed in Africa – stunting job creation. President Buhari observed that lack of employment is a key cause of mass migration from Africa to Europe, perversely caused by the very trade policies intended for Europe’s protection.
“Now, all this can be changed. Last September, history was made with the UK becoming the first country in the world to sign a memorandum with the African Union’s 54-country Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”. This, he said, should lead to a UK-African union free trade deal, one made with parity, considering Africa’s $3tn combined GDP is equivalent to that of the United Kingdom, the world’s fifth-largest economy.
According to the Nigerian leader, 19 African nations in the Commonwealth, collectively produce over half the African continent’s GDP, adding that “a UK-Africa deal would, concurrently, cause a revitalisation of intra-Commonwealth trade and with it the club itself – a stated British foreign policy aim. This could be further enhanced should we take advantage of the fact those 19 nations’ national laws are built on the principles of English jurisprudence: a common platform from which to better align regulations on investment and certification”.
The President, while listing the benefits of such agreement, noted that the deal would enable Britain to practice the free trade it has long preached. He added that It would represent recognition by a G7 economy of the benefits of African unity; that job creation and manufacturing in Africa can be an advantage and not a threat to the western world, while also injecting momentum into a renewed Commonwealth, after decades during which the organisation’s potential for economic cooperation was in abeyance while its most influential founding member was bound to European trade policies and unable to act alone.
Buhari, also noted that those who come from Britain seeking opportunities will be welcomed by an expanding and worldly-wise middle class wishing to experience the best of British culture, products, and expertise – from television and creative industries to iconic cars and education services. “Being the first mover amongst the G7 to seek a trade deal with Africa, the UK is positioning itself to secure the very best of terms and stands able to revive intra-Commonwealth trade, replenish its relations with the fastest growing market in the world, tackle the causes of economic migration – and create jobs and wealth that boost rather than threaten those at home.”