The Guardian
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Commonwealth solidarity offers benefits to Africa, Buhari declares


President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that a renewed sense of Commonwealth solidarity offers enormous benefits to Africans in the Diaspora, especially those resident in Britain, Canada and Australia. He said the communities still maintain the strongest of cultural and family links with the countries from which they and their forebears emigrated.

Buhari, who based his opinion on the impending United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU), said: “The UK’s exit from the EU is now all but certain. Only time will reveal what its new relationship shall be. But with this new arrangement, I-like many other Commonwealth leaders–also seek a new settlement: Not only of closer relations between the UK and Nigeria, but of unleashing trade within the club in which we shall remain together.

“Relations between Nigeria and the UK are close and longstanding, a union most recently reiterated in our 2018 bi-lateral security pact and collaboration in anti-trafficking. But in recent years, our relationship– particularly the economic–has become increasingly defined by Britain’s membership of the EU.

“A new free trade agreement would reconfigure this, presenting new opportunities for both. As the largest economy in Africa, my country of nearly 200 million people has a great deal to offer. Nigeria’s vast natural energy and mineral resources, unbarred through the ending of customs barriers, could help supply growth for companies in the UK. Greater access would also be forthcoming to one of the world’s fastest expanding groups of consumers – the Nigerian middle classes.”

He said greater engagement with the UK and its economy would bring jobs to under-tapped sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing, adding that millions of highly skilled, English-speaking but underemployed young people, were eager to work, but without the opportunities that foreign investment could bring to create jobs and build businesses.

“Yet, there is also a case that our two Commonwealth countries should try with other members to deliver more-collectively. In 2015, I became the first head of a new Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council tasked with boosting trade and investment within the wider organisation. “Now with the United Kingdom–the Commonwealth’s largest economy–no longer obliged to ring-fence its economy with tariffs, the mission will be given a jolt of vitality.

“However, we must be realistic since the Commonwealth will not suddenly become a multilateral-free trade zone. Today, many members reside within regional free trade and customs zones of their own. Yet without any of us needing to relinquish these ties, we can work together to minimise–consistent with respective memberships–as far as possible many of the tariffs and barriers on commodities, products and services. “Because member countries’ national laws are built on the principles of English jurisprudence, we might work together from this common platform to better align regulations on investment, certification and trade,” he stated.


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