Executive Intelligence Review


African Presidents, Labor, and Industry Fight EU Effort To Suck Their Continent into Free Trade

March 21, 2018 (EIRNS)—The European Union’s attempts to lure the African Union into a big new free trade agreement, which about 25 African governments are to discuss and sign during a summit in the Kigali, Rwanda starting today, have failed to pull Nigeria, into the scheme. Citing strong opposition to the agreement coming from industry as well as labor in his country, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari canceled his trip to Kigali, declaring that more discussion and thorough study of the proposals for free trade were required.

Two years ago, Buhari told the European Parliament that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), by which Europe pushes to have African countries lifting their customs duties on EU products by 80%, would ruin agriculture and industry in his country and prevent Nigeria from industrializing, because it is not yet strong enough to withstand competition from outside. His view is shared by the Presidents of Tanzania and Uganda.

Sani Yan Daki, deputy director general of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), told Germany’s Deutsche Welle news service: “Nigeria is still a developing economy. The infrastructure critical to manufacturing is not really there in Nigeria today.... Who is going to buy Nigerian products? Nobody is going to buy them. Industries in Nigeria will collapse.”

Economist Augustus Niwagaba from Uganda’s Makarere University also pointed out that “it is important to first understand the impact of opening the borders in order to avoid killing manufacturing.” Niwagaba does not accept the free traders’ argument that subsidizing the national industry will prevent it from becoming competitive on an African or global scale—quite the contrary would obtain with protective measures.

For Daki, a main problem for Nigeria is its lack of electrical power which keeps the country from developing its industries and thus becoming competitive in the continental market.