June 01, 2020 / 12:50 PM / NBCC
The Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) on Tuesday, 26th May 2020, hosted a Bilateral Trade Webinar themed "Nigerian-British Bilateral Relationship Post COVID-19". Panellists at the Webinar were the British Deputy High Commissioner, Ms Harriet Thompson, and Prince Bimbo Olashore, Vice-President of the NBCC. The session was moderated by Mrs Bola Adesola, Senior Vice- Chairman, Africa, Standard Chartered Bank.
Ms Thompson reiterated that the focus of British Government's work in Nigeria was around supporting economic development & growing the private sector, which has become even more relevant now to ameliorate the impact of Covid-19. According to the Deputy High Commissioner, despite the steady rise of Nigeria in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, there were still some nagging issues like Moving Goods into & from Ports,& within the country, Access to foreign exchange, Bureaucracy & Land Registration. She stated that the British Government was pleased to see the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria set out in the letter of intent to the IMF around the removal of fuel subsidy, tackling the forex regime and reforming the power sector.
She went further to talk about the steps Nigeria has taken to tackle the spread of the coronavirus which have come at a heavy economic cost, some of which have disrupted the supply chains. Allowing the movement of goods within the country would help businesses and the most vulnerable mitigate the impact of the virus. In addition, a great opportunity exists to implement reforms such as the Single Window which the Federal Government has committed to. The United Kingdom is also still highly active in supporting these reforms by providing technical assistance to organizations such as PEBEC and NIPC, as well as other programs that are supporting infrastructure, agriculture, market skills, and the technology sector.
Prince Bimbo Olashore, in addressing the effect of the pandemic on the Nigerian Capital Market, stated that the outlook is extremely positive as "the stock market is dominated by companies in infrastructure, telecommunications and banking. The doomsday conspiracy seems to be receding which means we are not expecting much damage...Nigeria's main issue has always been diversification. Nigeria is not an oil and gas economy because this sector barely contributes up to 12% to the GDP and what we have to do is to stimulate all the other areas with an increased focus on Agriculture, IT and other emerging sectors".
Speaking on the commitments made at the UK-Africa Investment Summit held in January, Ms. Thompson noted that many of the initiatives had not taken off because of the pandemic. There had however been slow but steady progress on the collaborations including the 37 Million Pounds Growth Gateway Programme of business support services for Trade and Investment across Africa. The British Government is supporting innovation and local production of PPEs, facilitating an understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the technology sector and seeking ways to support the growth of digital healthcare in Nigeria.
Similarly, the UK Export Finance (UKEF) provides funding for export or import UK products. However, despite a recently expanded appetite for risk finance in Nigeria, the current portfolio is only about 3% of total UKEF exposure and UKEF would like to significantly increase the portfolio. This will benefit SMEs aiming to expand and diversify their operations by exporting.
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