March 27, 2018 / 12:01 PM / 6 months ago

Nigeria to consult before deciding on African trade zone

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria decided not join an Africa free trade zone last week because it needs to carry out more consultations at home first, the government said on Tuesday.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks at the State House in Abuja, Nigeria February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

Other leaders agreed to form a zone encompassing 1.2 billion people, but 11 countries including the continent’s biggest economy, Nigeria, and its most-developed, South Africa, did not sign up.

The omissions were a blow to African Union plans to cut back red tape and other barriers that have strangled trade between African states - which amounts for just 15 percent of total commerce on the continent.

“Minister of Foreign Affairs: The decision for President @MBuhari to not attend the #AfCFTA signing ceremony was taken because we realized more inclusive (domestic) consultations needed to take place before Nigeria signs,” read a message on the presidency’s Twitter feed.

It did not go into any details on the nature of the consultations.

South Africa did immediately comment on its reasons last week. Others staying on the sidelines were: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Peter Graff and Andrew Heavens

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