President Muhammadu Buhari said on Wednesday that Nigeria will soon sign up to a $3 trillion African free-trade agreement. Nigeria is one of Africa’s two largest economies, the other being South Africa. Buhari’s government had refused to join a continental free-trade zone established in March, on the grounds that it wishes to defend its own businesses and industry.
The administration later said it wanted more time to consult business leaders. “In trying to guarantee employment, goods, and services in our country, we have to be careful with agreements that will compete, maybe successfully, against our upcoming industries,” Buhari told a news conference during a visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. “I am a slow reader, maybe because I was an ex-soldier. I didn’t read it fast enough before my officials saw that it was all right for signature. I kept it on my table. I will soon sign it.”
Earlier Ramaphosa told a business conference in Abuja that South Africa saw huge benefits from the continental free trade deal and that a draft agreement relating to the movement of people was being reviewed. In his first visit to Nigeria since becoming South Africa’s president in February, Ramaphosa said he was seeking greater collaboration between the two countries.