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Nigeria Surprised by News of Possible U.S. Travel Restrictions - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 23, 2020

BY  Haslinda Amin and Ruth Olurounbi

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s government was surprised by the news that the U.S. is considering travel restrictions on its citizens and the ban would mean officials will have to find new ways to meet with investors, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said.

Nigeria is one of seven countries, more than half of which are in Africa, included in a list that may be affected if the Homeland Security Department’s recommendation to expand restrictions is approved, according to a person familiar with the matter. President Donald Trump is reviewing it. The other African states targeted because of security concerns are Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania.

“It will mean restrictions in being able to meet with investors in the U.S. and to be able to meet with Bretton Woods institutions that are in the U.S.,” Ahmed said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg TV at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It means we will have to make meeting arrangements alternative to the U.S. because there are options that are open to us,” such as the U.K., she said.

Nigeria, which vies with South Africa to be the continent’s biggest economy, is struggling to boost economic growth after a 2016 contraction. The International Monetary Fund projects gross domestic product will expand 2.5% this year. The possible travel restrictions won’t hurt growth, Ahmed said.

“We have some very active investors in the Nigerian bond market that are in the U.S. and also some that have taken up our Eurobonds,” Ahmed said. “We connect with them directly and through our advisers such as Standard Chartered and Citibank, who have offices in the U.S.”

While Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, it imports fuel and relies on foreign investment inflows to help prop up the naira.

Zainab said she’s met with investors in London to discuss the possibility of issuing naira-denominated bonds on the London Stock Exchange.

“We are very positive that we will be able to refinance our debt obligations as well as acquire new financing to fund our major infrastructure projects,” she said.

Tanzania’s government hasn’t received confirmation that the country is being considered for a travel ban.

“We are also reading these reports from the media,” Emmanuel Buhohela, director of communications at the foreign-affairs ministry, said by phone. “So for now we are still waiting for official communication before we can react.”

--With assistance from Ken Karuri.

To contact the reporters on this story: Haslinda Amin in Singapore at hamin1@bloomberg.net;Ruth Olurounbi in Abuja at rolurounbi4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Osae-Brown at aosaebrown2@bloomberg.net, Rene Vollgraaff, Gordon Bell


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