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Nigeria says to sign Africa free trade pact

While backers of Africa's free trade agreement hope it will boost regional trade, critics warn that inadequate infrastructure including roads will limit its impact
While backers of Africa's free trade agreement hope it will boost regional trade, critics warn that inadequate infrastructure including roads will limit its impact AFP/File
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Lagos (AFP)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will sign the landmark African free trade agreement during the upcoming African Union meeting in Niger, his office said.

"Nigeria will sign the #AfCFTA Agreement at the upcoming Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Niamey, Niger," the presidency said in a Tweet late Tuesday.

African leaders are meeting in Niamey this weekend.

Nigeria had been a key backer of the plan to progressively reduce trade barriers on the continent since talks on the African Continental Free Trade Area got underway in 2002.

However it abruptly changed course shortly before the deal was signed last year following pressure from local unions and businesses fearful that they would be uncompetitive if trade barriers are dropped.

Last week, a special government panel formed to study the potential impact of joining AfCFTA, recommended that Buhari sign Nigeria up.

The trade deal "provides immense opportunities for Nigeria's manufacturing and service companies to expand to Africa," the panel's chair, Desmond Guobadia, said in a statement after submitting its report.

AfCFTA formally came into force at the end of May, after the required minimum of 22 countries ratified the ambitious plan to boost intra-African trade, which has long suffered by high tariffs.

It hopes the progressive elimination of tariffs will help boost regional trade by 60 percent within three years. At present, only 16 percent of trade by African nations is with continental neighbours.

Nigeria is one of only three of the AU's 55 member states to not have signed up to AfCFTA, with other African economic heavyweights such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa having ratified the pact.

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