Nigeria and the United Kingdom have agreed to fast-track key regulation to deepen the insurance market, expand the digital economy, and explore Naira-denominated financial instruments in collaboration with the City of London.
Both countries are also to endeavour to accelerate progress on franchise regulation to facilitate British brands positioning and investments that deliver sustainable new jobs in Nigeria.
These are part of the communiqué signed at the First Economic Development Forum (EDF) of both countries in Abuja, on Tuesday, by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, and Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who led the UK delegation.
The Forum was launched in August 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari, and Prime Minister Theresa May, as a platform to foster economic and development ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
Tuesday’s event was to take stock of progress achieved so far against the joint commitments made.
The communiqué also touched on other bilateral issues, including sustained improvements in the efficiency of Nigeria’s international airports, the UK’s ability to increase airfreight capacity of its national carriers, and enable Nigeria’s non-oil exporters to reach third market destinations via London in support export diversification drive, pending critical trade facilitation improvements in the Nigerian ports.
Parties will also consult Nigerian and British business community and identify critical joint work streams and key actions needed to boost bilateral trade and investment, attract investment, and create jobs by improving the business environment.
They also stressed the need for opportunities to showcase high quality Nigerian and British goods and services in their respective markets, and for more Nigerian exports to comply with global standards for better bilateral trade and investment.
Others are Nigeria’s commitment to continue the reforms and improvements in making the country’s operating environment conducive for businesses and investments; and collaboration to achieve a successful Africa Investment Summit in the UK in 2020, and use the opportunity to present a strong pipeline of investable projects in Nigeria that seek partnership with British investors.
Speaking at the Forum, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who supervised the signing of the communiqué, expressed his pleasure at the progress achieved in implementing the EDF since it was initiated in 2018.
He observed that despite the deep and long-standing relationship between Nigeria and United Kingdom, the current level of trade and investments between the two countries is materially below the potential the relationship suggests, given that Africa represents only two per cent of the UK’s trade relationships, and Nigeria represents only a tenth of that.
He called for all hands to be on deck to ensure that “we foster the right environment to grow the level of bilateral trade and investment between our great countries,” even as he noted the challenges that have hindered the local business and investment environment.
Recalling some of the achievements so far made, he said: “In the last three years, the government has allocated and disbursed over N3.5 trillion from the National budgets to infrastructure.
“We are committed to improving Nigeria’s competitiveness and making our country one of the easiest places to do business globally. The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) under my leadership has made significant progress in reducing bottlenecks, eliminating redundancies and increasing transparency across government ministries department and agencies.
“There is undeniable evidence that this administration is repositioning the Nigerian economy for true growth and shared prosperity. We have seen increased investor interest in Nigeria by the investment announcements that we track, with $90.9 billion of investment announcements in 2018, a 37% increase over the $66.4 billion tracked in 2017.”
Earlier in his remarks, Hunt noted that Nigeria’s current demographics require government and other stakeholders to improve efforts and other interventions aimed at tackling unemployment and other challenges.
He advised government to adopt steps aimed at improving the investment climate, one of which is the approval of the revised Companies and Allied Matters Act.