Wed, 16 Dec 2020 Feature Article

The End Of Afrocentricism: Nigerian Foreign Policy And The Case Of The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

The End Of Afrocentricism: Nigerian Foreign Policy And The Case Of The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)


Nigeria, alongside other African countries were billed to on 21 March 2018, in Kigali Rwanda to sign the coming into effect of the framework to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); an initiative of the African Union (AU). However, in the last moment, Nigeria backed out by declining to sign the agreement. What is AfCFTA all about, what were the reasons that made Nigeria to decline signing the agreement, and above all, what are the lessons of this act on Nigeria’s foreign policy pursuit? This triad of questions constitutes the cardinal thematic preoccupation of this paper. These questions are analytically interrogated in the various segments of the paper. On the basis of the analysis, the paper makes recommendations on how Nigeria can revitalize her Afrocentricism, and indeed, foreign policy machinery to place her in a better stead to participate in African and global affairs.


The major bane of development in Africa is the inability to tap and utilize her plenteous and rich resources and potentials. In realization of this fact, African countries both at the individual and collective levels have been evolving national and supranational development strategies to address this challenge. For instance, previous supranational development strategies in Africa include: the Lagos Plan of Action; the Millennium Integration Programme; the Programme for Infrastructural Development in Africa (PIDA); the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP); the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); and plethora of other regional plans and programmes (Daily Trust Editorial, March 29, 2018: 61).

The African Union (AU) at its summit held between January 22-29 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia adopted the AU Agenda 2063 as yet again its philosophical strategy of growth and development on the continent. The Agenda has been long in coming preceding its culmination in 2018. Embedded in its philosophical interstice is the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA is designed to integrate African economies by expanding their markets and creating jobs and opportunities for her teeming populace.

When operational it is envisaged that AfCFTA would be the single largest trading bloc in the world since the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994, with a single market of up to 1.2 billion people and a collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2 trillion. AfCFTA it is expected would liberalize 90 percent of products manufactured in Africa. By this, a country can only protect 90 percent of its local industries (Daily Sun Editorial, April 12, 2018; BusinessDay 2018). As Anudu (2018: 19) captures its economic essence:

It is meant to create a single market for goods and services on the continent, including a customs union with free movement of capital and persons as the focus. The AfCFTA is expected to raise Africa’s nominal GDP to $6.7 trillion by 2030 if all the countries sign up…eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade, making it easier for African business to trade within the continent and cater to and benefit the growing African market.

From the adoption of AfCFTA initiative in 2012, African countries have painstakingly negotiated its coming into fruition beginning from the AU Johannesburg summit of 2015 when actual negotiations commenced, culminating into the production of a 250 page document that was expected to be ratified by the 55 member countries. Nigeria participated in all the processes with passionate zeal and commitment. At the eleventh hour when the treaty was to be signed, Nigeria backpedalled. This move came as a surprise to many analysts of African and Nigerian affairs. For Nigeria, particularly, the declination to sign the AfCFTA framework has important lessons for Nigerian foreign policy pursuit.

This paper is more on the foreign policy dimensions of Nigeria not signing the AfCFTA framework than it is economic analysis. To address this thesis, section one is the abstract, section two introduces the paper, section three expounds on the theoretical considerations relating to regional economic integration and how it is critical to the development question in Africa. Section four dwells on AfCFTA, its conceptualization, and issues around it and why Nigeria’s balked to sign the framework. In section five, the focus is on AfCFTA and Nigerian foreign policy, especially, how the declination of Nigeria to sign the agreement has implications on her foreign policy and Afrocentricism agenda. And finally, section six concludes the paper.

Theoretical Epistemology: Regionalization and Integration

Africa is a richly endowed continent both in material and human resources. Indeed, of all the five continents, Africa is the most materially endowed. However, this resource endowment has not translated into any meaningful socio-economic and technological development. Basically, these resources are taken in their raw form and exported to industrially advanced countries for processing into finished goods (Princewill 2018). And more, economically, intra-Africa trade relations which is currently at fifteen percent is the lowest compared to sixty seven percent for Europe, fifty eight percent for Asia, and forty eight percent for North America (Mahmood, 2018).

This scenario shows that Africa, now, more than ever before, needs an organizational and regulatory framework to maximally utilize her resource endowments and potentials in order to improve her economic fortunes. This therefore calls for the enunciation of pragmatically dynamic strategies of economic integration on the continent. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) is borne out of this imperative. But the question that then arises is: what is economic integration? The question has been answered in a variety of ways (Bajulaiye-Shasi 1992; Uniamikogbo 1992; Osagie 1978; Osagie 1992). The reason for these conceptual variations is the divergences in typological and philosophical vision of postulators. In any case, the broad typological streams of economic integration are: one, free trade area; two, customs union; three, common market; and four, economic union.

Although these various forms of integration bear close resemblance to each other conceptually, they are nonetheless, separated by operational boundaries. At the core of economic integration is that intertwinement of free trade and foreign trade; and organized group economic protectionism. Within the ambit of the AfCFTA framework, the economic integration theory that underscores its operationalization is free trade. The free trade area theory is therefore the focus of our theoretical exertions. What is the free trade theory of economic integration?

According to Osagie (1978: 2) free trade area is

‘… the loosest form of economic integration. In a free trade area, member countries eliminate import duties on goods from other member countries, but each Member State is free to impose its own import duties (which may be different from those imposed by other Member States) on imports from non-member countries.’

In a free trade area, there is the elimination of barriers and restrictions on mutual trade between the signatory-states. Some major examples of free trade arrangements are: Latin America Free Trade Association (LAFTA); North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and, European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Whatever typologies of economic integration, at the centre of the successful operationalization of economic integration are certain preconditions. These preconditions are one, there should be substantial percentage of trade relations among members, two; there should be competitive productive structure, complimentary distribution of raw materials, and industrial coordination and cooperation among member countries; three, ‘…the larger the area constituting and economic community in terms of income, population and geographical area, the greater the prospects of benefits accruing to member countries (sic); four, ‘… for economic integration to benefit member countries, national control and ownership of the various sectors of the economy should be secured before integration (Osagie 1978: 4-5): .

Singer (Osagie 1978: p.5) in addition outlines other preconditions. They include: one, ‘… the union should be made of countries of equal economic importance; two, more benefits would accrue if countries are at an exceedingly small industrial base consisting almost entirely of processing of natural resources and small scale industries; three, ‘…if the size of each of the members is not so large as to permit any of them independently to pursue a national industrialization programme as an alternative to cooperation with other members of an economic community;’ four, and finally, ‘…economic integration has a better chance of success if it is backed by regional and other sources of aid to support joint projects between member countries.’

These preconditions, it needs be stated are not cast in concrete. There are likely countervailing factors that may impede the successful implementation of economic integration. For instance, political considerations and ideology are not factored as preconditions and yet they play crucially decisive roles in shaping socio-economic phenomenon. And more fundamentally, in the contemporary African political economy, factors that impinge on economic development and integration are: one, the heritage of colonialism with its divisive and negative influence on intra-African relations. Here I refer to the geocultural and political jealousies framed around such linguistic notions of Anglophonism, Francophonism, and Lusophonism.

Two, the economies of African countries are largely exported oriented and driven largely by the export of raw materials; three, African economies lack the productive capacity and requisite capacity utilization. And this arises from the poor nature of their manufacturing and industrial sectors. Four, the economies of African countries are largely predominated by external economic powers such as the industrialized countries of Europe and North America, and very recently, China. Five, in contemporary economic practice, factor endowment is no longer central to the determination of comparative advantage. This much is postulated by the Hecker-Ohlin-Samuelson theorem of industrial trade (Sodersten, 1983). The contemporary best practice is technological innovations grafted on the wheel of advances in science and technology.

Notwithstanding the stress and strains associated with economic integration it remains the ideal especially for less developed economies like African countries. This is so because it brings in its trail dynamic effects, that is, positive lubricants that oil the wheels of economic growth and development and enhances the Gross National Product (GNP) of participating countries. Economic integration expands markets, breaks monopoly, creates more jobs and opportunities, and promotes economies of scale—fostering comparative advantage and decline in the cost of production. This is the economic philosophy and logic behind the African Continental Free Trade Agreement framework: to regionalize and integrate African economies for optimal and mutual benefits, market expansion, job creation, improved capacity utilization, enhanced opportunities, and above all else, to up-scale the benefits of scale. A United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) captures the benefit of regionalization and economic integration in these words (cited in Bajulaiye-Shasi 1992: p.9):

The bigger the area and the more varied the resources, the larger the number of industries likely to be capable of operating under optimum conditions. Projects not only economically feasible, or feasible only at high cost in an individual country becomes a practical proposition if undertaken by several countries jointly.

Given this theoretically and praxially positive ambience of economic integration, ‘ Nigeria should be leading and celebrating such a forward-looking venture (AfCFTA), not foot-dragging on it’ (Daily Sun Editorial, April 12, 2018: 15)

African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Conceptualization and Issues

The initiative to have an African continental free trade area was taken as far back as 2012 at the summit of African Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Negotiations proper commenced in 2015. The AfCFTA is conceptually and philosophically rooted in the Africa Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063. The fundamental vision of the AfCFTA is to create and integrate a large market for African economies in order for them to maximally tap into the economies of scale such a market brings in its wake. Broadly, the objectives of AfCFTA are (

  1. 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 Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.
  2. Expand intra-African trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation regimes and instruments across regional economic committees (REC) and across Africa in general.
  3. Resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
  4. Enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.

The negotiations for AfCFTA are in two phases. The first phase deals with trade in goods and services, while the second phase covers intellectual property, competition policy and investment. The underlining economic philosophy of AfCFTA is to integrate the economies of African countries and boost the scope and quantity of intra-African trade relations that is currently the least amongst the continents. As posited by Daily Sun in an editorial (April 12, 2018: 15) the AfCFTA is designed as a ‘ground breaking event designed to create a single market for goods and services as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and business travellers.’ Countries and regional economic committees (REC) are expected to complete negotiations as it relates to competition, dispute resolution mechanisms, intellectual property rights, etc.

It is the largest trade agreement since the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994. As part of the process of birthing the trade agreement framework, African countries are expected to submit schedules of concessions for trade in goods. That is the goods to be liberalized and those to be exempted from liberation; especially those considered ‘sensitive.’ In short, tariffs would be removed on 90 percent of goods while 10 percent of sensitive goods will be included in the future. In view of the centrality of the free trade framework to Africa, Nigeria has participated actively in the negotiations leading to the signing of the AfCFTA framework. Nigeria’s participation in the negotiations was bolstered by the appointment of President Muhammadu Buhari as the arrowhead of the African Union anti-corruption committee, which is expected to curb corruption in Africa and enhance socio-economic development on the continent.

It is a measure of Nigeria’s commitment to the free trade framework that she bided for the secretariat of the AfCFTA. Indeed, Nigeria outlined its envisaged benefits of the continental free trade agreement to include amongst others: expanding market access for Nigeria’s exporters of goods and services; spur growth and boost job creation; eliminate trade barriers against Nigerian products; provide a trade dispute settlement mechanism to stop hostile and discriminatory trade practices targeted at Nigeria; support Nigeria’s industrial policy; improve competition; create an enabling business environment; consolidate and expand Nigeria’s economy; and stimulate an estimated 8.18 percent increase in Nigeria’s total export. All this is expected to dovetail into a total increase in Nigerian economic welfare by 0.62 percent the equivalent of around $2.9 billion (Daily Trust March 19, 2018:5).

In the face of these expected advantages and gains, it was surprising that at the last minute Nigeria declined to sign the AfCFTA agreement. The chief opponents of the AfCFTA are the Organized Private Sector (OPS) especially the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the organized labour: Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and United Labour Congress (ULC). Their major bone of contention is that the Nigerian economy lacks the industrial and technological capacity to engage in a continental free trade initiative. Anudu summarizes the viewpoint of the continental free trade framework in these words (BusinessDay, 2018: 22)

Opponents of the free trade deal say the free movement of persons which is among the protocols to be ratified, could worsen Nigeria’s security risks. Nigeria is already pummeled by Boko Haram, herdsmen and all forms of crimes, and allowing free movement of persons could open doors to African based terrorists groups and also worsen smuggling.

The leading organization against the free trade deal is the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN). MAN opposition is twofold. One, it is apprehensive that signing the free trade deal would pose a threat to unemployment, collapse of manufacturing companies, and poor government consultation with relevant economic stakeholders. Two, is its worries over Morocco’s signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe. The EPA is a free trade deal proposed by the European Union (EU) to West Africa which allows Europe to liberalize export from West Africa and vice versa. The major fear of MAN is that Morocco will smuggle European goods into Africa by rebranding them as made in Morocco thus undermining the spirit of the free trade deal (Anudu, BusinessDay, 2018: 21).

The President of MAN, Dr. Frank Jacobs (Adejokun, 2018:17) outlines the association’s opposition to the free trade deal on ground that:

Government should, as a matter of urgency, convene a special meeting of the relevant stakeholders, including experts on trade policy to consider tariff lines rates along the line of efficiency, sectoral and subsectoral performances that would be most beneficial to Nigerian businesses under the AfCFTA dispensation as well as reconsider the national position of EPA vis-a-vis the AfCFTA especially on tariffs lines of products on the sensitive/exclusion list, with a view to ensuring that the EU-EPA is not reintroduced through the AfCFTA backdoor. Review presentation and prepare a detailed submission for the government on ways and means of participating in the AfCFTA in a manner that our national interest and that of budding manufacturing sector are effectively protected.

The organized labour also shares the same sentiments as those of MAN. The labour organizations view the AfCFTA as decidedly anti-labour. And that by its very nature of allowing the influx of goods and services AfCFTA would lead to job loss thus injuring the interests of the Nigerian workers. Thus, the NLC at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting posited that signing the AfCFTA agreement is (Daily Trust, March 19, 2018: 5):

…a renewed, extremely dangerous and radioactive neoliberal policy initiative being driven by the Ministry of Trade and Investment that seeks to open our seaport, airports and other businesses to unbridled foreign interference never before witnessed in the history of the country.

It is on account of this and other domestic reasons that the government declined to sign the free trade deal. According to the Director General of Nigeria Office for Trade and Negotiations, Chiedu Osakwe, Nigeria declined to sign the free trade deal for what he termed ‘more consultations are required’ (Daily Trust, March 19, 2018: 5). Whatever may be the reasons for the government declination to sign the continental free trade deal, it nonetheless, impact on the foreign policy pursuit of Nigeria, especially its Afrocrentic plank. This forms the focus of the next subunit.

AfCFTA and Nigerian Foreign Policy

The decision by Nigeria not to sign the AfCFTA framework has implications on her foreign policy pursuit, especially, its ideology of Afrocentricism. But first, what is the idea of Afrocentricism? Under Chapter Two (Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy) Section 19(a—e) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), outlines the foreign policy objectives of Nigeria to include the following:

a.) promotion and protection of national interests;

b.) promotion of African integration and support for African unity;

c.) promotion of international cooperation for the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect among all nations and elimination of discrimination in all its manifestations;

d.) respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication; and

e.) promotion of a just world economic order.

The primary accent of our analysis is on objective two: promotion of African integration and support for African unity. It is the constitutional and ideological provenance of the idea of Afrocentricism in Nigerian foreign policy pursuit. The idea simply means that in Nigeria’s external relations, the welfare of Africa and Africans and the promotion of Africa and African interests, the pursuit of African integration, African value systems, dignity and civilization is Nigeria’s core foreign policy agenda. This accounts for the contingent refrain of ‘Africa is the centrepiece of Nigeria foreign policy’ in the discourse of Nigerian foreign policy. Jaja Nwachuku, Nigeria’s former External Affairs minister enunciated the doctrine of Afrocentricism pungently in these words (1961:339):

... Nigeria is an African nation, it is part and parcel of that continent of Africa and therefore it is so completely involved in anything that pertains to that continent that it cannot be neutral and must never be considered as a neutralist country ... We are independent in everything but neutral in nothing that affects the destiny of Africa.

The radical variant of Afrocentricism was trundled on the scene during the Murtala Mohammed military regime. It was during this era that Murtala Mohammed delivered his famed oration, ‘Africa has come of Age,’ speech on 11 January, 1976 at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) extra-ordinary meeting held in Kampala, Uganda. Nigeria has kept faith with this doctrine of Afrocentricism in her foreign pursuit since independence. Indeed, it is one of the fundamental organizing principles of Nigerian foreign policy. The framing and single-minded pursuit of the framework for an African Continental Free Trade Agreement by Nigeria was borne out of this consideration: African integration and African unity.

Having participated actively in the processes and negotiations leading up to the period preceding the signing the AfCFTA, the AfCFTA framework was presented to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) of Nigeria for considerations. Thus on 14 March 2018, the FEC considered and approved that Nigeria sign the framework for AfCFTA. President Muhammadu Buhari was billed to attend the extraordinary meetings of the African Union (AU) in Kigali, Rwanda on 21 March 2018 to sign the framework. The President’s advance party had already been dispatched to Kigali awaiting the arrival of the President. At the last minute, President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled the visit and made known Nigeria’s position to no longer sign the AfCFTA framework.

This move completely runs contrary to the avowed doctrine of the Afrocentricism of Nigerian foreign policy. The Daily Sun in its editorial stated that this act was historic in the annals of Nigeria’s Afrocentric foreign policy pursuit. As it posited (Daily Sun Editorial April 12, 2018, p.15) ‘Never in the history of Nigeria’s Afrocentric policy had a Nigerian government, out of self-doubt and narrow self-protection, abdicated its responsibility to the continent by pandering to vested domestic interest, which often try to minimize Nigeria’s strategic interests to fit narrow group and individual interests.’ This declination by Nigeria to sign the AfCFTA framework teaches us lessons on Nigerian foreign policy.

One, it robbed Nigeria the opportunity of hosting the secretariat of AfCFTA. Nigeria and Ghana had bid for the hosting of the organization’s secretariat. In all probability Nigeria was more favoured to host the secretariat. Had Nigeria won the bid to host the secretariat, it would have enhanced Nigeria’s international visibility and respectability as host of international organizations and created jobs for many Nigerians. Commenting on the loss of hosting the secretariat, Iloani (2018: 44) states that, ‘Nigeria’s withdrawal from the free trade pact had an immediate effect: the secretariat of the AfCFTA, which she lobbied for alongside Ghana, was eventually domiciled at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.’

Two, it shows the lack of leadership capital by Nigeria. Leadership is a critical ingredient in foreign policy pursuit (Pogoson, 2005). Nigeria would have used her leadership clout—a credential often touted and celebrated by the mantra of Nigeria being ‘the giant of Africa’—to mobilize other African countries to appreciate its apprehensions about the AfCFTA framework especially as it relates to African economies and its implications for their growth and development. A leader is expected to possess forbearance, perseverance and indomitable fortitude and patience in negotiations and engagements. Nigeria never showed these attributes when the occasion of AfCFTA called for. This inability of Nigeria to mobilize other African countries to appreciate and share her fears about the AfCFTA framework is a failure of leadership. And this is not supposed to be the case for the so-called giant of Africa. As Adebajo says (cited in Iloani 2018: 21) ‘we are the largest economy in Africa and when something like this is happening (signing of AfCFTA), we have to take leadership role.

Three, it shows the poverty of her diplomatic machinery. Diplomacy is one of the major instruments of foreign policy. It is the art and science of negotiation and conducting of relations amongst nation-states in the international arena. It is chiefly used by nation-states in the international system to woo and mobilize other nation-states to be favourably disposed to its point of view or perspective on any issue of international importance. It is also the lubricant that oils the wheels of inter-state relations at the bilateral level. It is clear therefore that any nation-state whose quality of diplomacy is weak and poor would find it extremely difficult to make meaningful negotiations, let alone achieve any tangible result in its relations with other members of the international community.

The inability of Nigeria to use her diplomatic skills to lobby other African countries to appreciate her perspective and apprehension about the AfCFTA is a clear demonstration of the poverty of her diplomatic machinery. Rather than decline to sign the AfCFTA, Nigeria would have lobbied African countries on the importance of treading with caution on a continental customs union by persuasively outlining its dangers to the health of African economies at the moment, especially given their predominantly dependent, developing, raw material-oriented nature, and weak manufacturing and industrial base. On the heels of this, she would have convinced majority of African countries to tread with caution in signing the free trade framework. Nigeria failed woefully to do this thus exposing the underbelly of her weak diplomatic machinery and Big Brother status.

Four, and finally, the declination of Nigeria to sign the AfCFTA framework demonstrate her diminishing and waning influence on the scene of contemporary international relations especially African affairs. Time there was when the voice of Nigeria was sought and courted to provide the critical mass on issues of continental importance. For instance, even though Nigeria was not within the geographical neighborhood of Southern Africa, however, on account of her anti-Apartheid posture she was regarded as a frontline state. A case of geographical non-alignment, but, ideological alignment. This period is nostalgically referred to as the golden age of Nigerian foreign policy. Nothing more emblematically demonstrates this than the fact that forty-four African countries went ahead and signed the AfCFTA framework without Nigeria. The strategic message of this behavior is that with or without Nigeria they would go ahead and do whatever in their considered opinion is in the interest of Africa.

The face of this phase in Nigeria’s current international image, stature and respectability is to say the least worrisome. How Nigeria plunged from the Olympian height of an iconic and respected voice in global affairs to a diplomatic footnote in African affairs calls for critical introspection by the political leadership of the country and the foreign policy establishment. And no time can be more auspicious than now when the issue of the signing and ratification of the AfCFTA framework is on the table of diplomatic discourse. Nigeria can actually use the AfCTA as a peg to hang its new image on the African and global scene. To achieve this feat, we recommend some measures.

One, Nigeria should urgently retrace her footstep in declining to sign the AfCFTA agreement framework. Signing is not in any way coterminous with ratification. At the moment AfCFTA is not in force in Africa. The initial signing is the first stage in a three-stage process that would lead to the final establishment of the continental free trade. It is being expected that soonest another round of negotiations dealing with protocols on free trade in services, intellectual property rights, investments and competition would commence. At conclusion, a total of twenty-two countries are needed to ratify the framework before it becomes operational. In view of this, we recommend that Nigeria should sign the framework and then mainstream its concerns in the next round of negotiations.

Two, Nigeria should revitalize its Afrocentricism foreign policy agenda. There seems to be a lull in this orientation of her foreign policy pursuit. She can do this by taking (a) more proactive and dynamic posture to issues relating to African affairs especially as enunciated in her foreign policy objectives; (b) promotion of African integration and support for African unity; and (d) respect for international law and treaty obligations as well as the seeking of settlement of international disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and adjudication. Rather than balk, she should be engaging, dynamic not complacent, firm and decisive, and, not filibustering. This feat can be achieved through a positive oriented, dynamic, purposeful and focused political leadership; and, the moral and ideological rearmament of the foundational principles and pillars of Nigerian foreign policy.

Three, and finally, the diplomatic machinery of Nigeria need to be revitalized to suit the changing demands of the period—the twenty first century. This means that the personnel saddled with diplomatic machinery should be given more professional training especially in complex and varied fields of human knowledge; exposed to contemporary diplomatic best practices especially in the areas of lobbying, analysis, and negotiations. Those in charge of the country’s diplomatic architecture must put national interests above primordial interests, professionalism not careerism, and demonstrate tenacity of conviction and courage in the face of occupational pressures. Above all else, the political leadership of Nigeria and the foreign policy establishment must be above board and alive to their functions and responsibilities. They must possess and demonstrate the requisite leadership capital, competence, and political will to discharge their remit without let or hindrance arising from parochial interests, creed, and ideology. The national interests of Nigeria, the well being of Nigerians and Africans and the pursuit of a just, fair, equitable world order should be foremost in their strategic calculations.


This paper has taken a look at the decision of Nigeria not to sign the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) framework. We argue that the decision has grave implications on Nigerian foreign policy especially as regards the doctrine of Afrocentricism. Some of these implications are (1) Nigeria lost her bid to host the AfCFTA secretariat; (2) it exposes the poverty of Nigeria’s leadership in African continental affairs; (3) it demonstrates the poor quality of the diplomatic machinery of Nigeria; (4) and very fundamentally; it brings into clear relief the waning influence of Nigeria in Africa and global affairs. In the face of this ugly scenario, the question that arises is: what needs to be done? We advanced three major recommendations: (1) Nigeria should timeously sign the AfCFTA framework and thereafter mainstream her fears and apprehensions in the next rounds of negotiations; (2) Nigeria needs to reawaken its Afrocentric foreign policy, not just in precept but action; and the political leadership and foreign policy establishment of Nigeria must demonstrate the political will, tenacity of purpose and critical vision to steer the course of Nigerian foreign policy aright; (3) the diplomatic machinery and architecture of Nigeria must be given a new lease of life, a new direction, that is in tandem with the twenty-first century. The concretization of these measures in our opinion is the road ahead for Nigeria if she is to actualize the lofty objectives of her foreign policy as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


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