Sunday, September 20, 2020 / 09:40AM/Nifemi Taiyese
for Proshare WebTV/ Header Image Credit: WebTV
Nigeria remains an important market for the United Kingdom in global business and trade.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria Ms. Catriona Laing gave the reassurance at the recent Global Investor Conference hosted by the Nigeria-British Chamber of Commerce which discussed the theme "The Future of Trade & Investment in Africa.
The Nigeria British Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Her Majesty's Department of Trade Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment held its virtual Global Investment Conference with the theme "The Future of Trade and Investment in Africa".
According to Laing, Nigeria represents 4% of UK trade within Africa which is low as the UK's total trade in goods and services in Africa is 4.4billion pounds, trade with Nigeria needs to be higher, hence the importance of the conference.
She noted that the UK was giving top priority to increasing trade and investment with Nigeria, especially from the positive outcome of the recent Africa Investment Summit that was hosted earlier in the year in London.
Speaking further she said Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom had developed a huge interest in the 'Africa Rising Story and the Opportunities in the Continent'.
"As a result of the Africa Investment Summit, we announced a new Africa Investors Group to bring together major influential investors in Africa with UK representatives to match make and build leveraging technology. Since the launch, there have been 300 submissions from high growth African firms, 600 opportunities on the platform and 34 matches and Nigeria represents 10% of those" She said.
She highlighted the fact that the linkages will be built through three things namely;
1. Establishing the UK - Africa tech growth ecosystem
2. Scaling up and building the knowledge base on both sides
3. Supporting emerging tech companies and linking them with African countries to try and boost trade and investment.
Ms. Laing acknowledged the fact that Nigeria has been particularly hard hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic/economic crisis because it is an oil economy and the crash in international oil prices, combined with the difficulty in accessing capital, reflected in the GDP in Q2, 2020 which saw a contraction of -6.1% according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
"The silver lining is that some of the long-overdue structural reforms that have been needed are currently being addressed from the unification of foreign exchange rates to the removal of fuel subsidies and adjustments in the power tariff," said Laing.
Looking at the longer-term issues that need to be tackled the diplomat called for additional reforms in Nigeria around customs processes, land ownership, transfer of titling processes which are essential to attracting more investments into Nigeria.
She was optimistic that the Global Investment Conference will spur trade and investments between the UK and Nigeria.
Mr. Ben Llewellyn Jones, British Deputy High Commissioner, in his remarks, said that there is a range of opportunities in Nigeria which are often overlooked due to the challenges.
He believed that UK businesses had strong offers for Nigeria, from the UK-Africa Investment Summit which can strengthen the partnership between both countries.
The British Deputy High Commissioner said those who want to do business in Nigeria are encouraged to come as his role will be to support them and the reforms, to make doing business in Nigeria easy, possible and even foster greater trade, investments and development between the two countries beyond COVID 19.
Giving his remarks at the event the President and Chairman of Council NBCC, Mr. Kayode Falowo, said the purpose of the conference was to discuss various topical issues that would foster the growth of trade and investments between Nigeria and Britain, promoting businesses through a virtual exhibition and offering delegates the opportunity to engage and network with a broad spectrum of Nigerian and British Business owners, professionals and government officials on the platform.
"Previously labelled as the dark continent, Africa is reinventing itself and has demonstrated to the world that it is emerging and progressing to greater heights, this growth is due to the strong economic progress achieved across the continent over the past two decades, its large working-age population and growing consumer markets," Falowo said.
Speaking further the NBCC President said Africa offers a huge market for investment opportunities for prospective British and other international investors.
He noted that in recent years, African countries have emerged as some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, outpacing global averages and with countries such as Rwanda, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania and Benin recording over 5% GDP growth in 2019.
The NBCC President asserted that the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic posed a great risk to African economies as it threatens to erode the growth and development achieved in the past two decades.
He added "When compared to other nations, given the special historic ties between Nigeria and the UK, the value of trade and investments between both countries can be significantly improved upon. The growth of trade and investment flows between Nigeria and the UK is certainly one of the key agendas of the NBCC".
On his part, the Honorable Minister of Industries, Trade and Investments Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, in his goodwill message said the theme of the conference emphasized the elements and initiatives that are the government priorities.
"We will continue to provide leadership for the continent, an economic, strong and viable Nigeria to entrench a rule-based environment needed to enhance trade potentials".
He highlighted the fact that as it relates to investment opportunities, the national priority remains to expand local production, and significantly improve Africa's pathway for strategic investments. He said efforts will therefore focus on implementing concerted and predictable policies to diversify the economy.
"Investors can be assured that policies and reforms that are implemented will align along with the role of expanding local production capacities and market access while protecting the industries," the Minister said.
The event featured three-panel sessions. The first-panel session focused on Africa Continental Free Trade Area: Next Steps discussing harmonization of trade standards, improving regional value chains and, standardizing export for global competitiveness.
The second-panel session discussed foreign direct investment, and economic risk, the commencement of trade under the AfCFTA, noting that it would offer hope for the recovery of FDIs into the continent by expanding intra-Africa trade.
Panel session three had Accessing Finance for Increased Trade and Investment as its topic.