VENTURES AFRICA – With current trade value standing at £4 billion ($6.4 billion), Nigeria and the United Kingdom have expressed optimism as both countries look to double their bilateral trade by 2014 to £8 billion ($13 billion) by 2014.
To meet the trade target, Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga and the United Kingdom Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable said at a joint press conference yesterday that factors militating against effective trade between the two countries had been identified and were now being addressed to meet the 2014 deadline.
The Minister said the Small and Medium Enterprises sector and the Diaspora group will also be looked into.
According to Aganga, “Nigeria is leveraging on the large Diaspora population we have in the UK, who can actually be the catalyst – those agents for trade between the two countries.”
“They don’t have to relocate, but can do a lot from the SME side of it, and can also do a lot on trade. If you look at the programme we are going to put in place, you will find out it is going to be beneficial to both countries,” he said.
The trade and investment Minister also said that his ministry was focusing on SMEs and agricultural development to engender inclusive growth and translate the Nigeria’s seven per cent Gross Domestic Product growth achieved by the country into actual improvement in the standard of living of Nigerians.
“By 2014 to 2015, things will change because we are working seriously to change the environment in terms of infrastructure and power generation in particular.”
Aganga noted that the decision to double the trade between both nations was a follow up on the agreement between Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and Britain Prime Minister, David Cameron to increase the volume of trade by 100 per cent.
“We have had a useful business to business roundtable, which is a follow up to the meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan and David Cameron, where they both set a target to double trade in the two countries by the year 2014,” he said.
“There is no shortage of interest in investment in Nigeria. We have all it takes to attract investment. Our environment looks great. We have fertile land, good whether condition, 34 solid minerals in commercial quantity all of which make Nigeria an investment destination of choice,” he stated.
Aganga said that Nigeria is passionate about creating enabling environment for Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).
Meanwhile, United Kingdom Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable assures that the focus of the United Kingdom in its trade relation with Nigeria is not the issue of which country leads in the volume of trade, but an assurance of trade growth in both countries.
“We do not worry if there is an in balance against the United Kingdom. If we do not import crude oil from Nigeria, we could import from other countries. The important thing is that trade is growing in both directions. That is the key because it is mutually beneficial. We want to see barriers being removed.”
He declared that his country “ is also committed to working with Nigerian authorities to make the business climate here more attractive to investors. Improvements in power supply, transportation and legislation that protects business investment can make a real difference to Nigeria’s already impressive growth rates.”
Beside the plan to improve bilateral trade with Nigeria, Britain has also promised to work with Nigerian authorities to ensure a more friendly business climate for investors which he said will warm political, cultural and economic ties between the two countries.
Cable also spoke on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). He said, the PIB is of particular significance for Nigeria as it has the potential to enhance transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector and would send out the strong message to international investors about Nigeria’s willingness to do business.
“It would also ensure that the Nigerian people can see how the natural wealth of their country is managed. However, this will only be achieved by a well-crafted bill that sets robust and transparent legal frameworks in place. The issue here is not what is good for the oil companies but what best helps the country maximise its potential. At present, even with recent recovery to two million barrels per day it is operating well below sustainable production levels.”
“The Nigerian Government has also signalled its willingness to take a tough stand on corruption – the collaboration between our two countries to bring about the prosecution of James Ibori sent out a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated. The recent communique agreed between Nigeria and the UK reinforces our joint work in this regard. But the UK understand its responsibilities too: the UK bribery act sets out a zero tolerance policy on corruption and in part this is a message to UK investors that they must play by the rules in Africa and elsewhere.”
In 2011, the UK’s exports of goods and service to Nigeria increased by 13 percent and trade overall grew by 35 percent.
Cable said with this, both countries are on track to meet their shared commitment to double trade to eight billion by 2014 from 2010.