Interview: Helen Grant
How would you assess the bilateral relationship between the UK and Nigeria?
HELEN GRANT: The UK has a historical relationship with Nigeria that spans decades. As Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, Nigeria is a notable contributor to the continent and the UK. A stable, secure and prosperous Nigeria is very much in the UK’s interest; the relationship seeks to deliver jobs and opportunities for Nigerians, while creating opportunities for UK businesses. Nigeria is the UK’s second-largest market in Africa, and one of its strongest trading and investment partners. Our economic relationship spans agriculture, health care, infrastructure, consumer goods, food and drink, pharmaceuticals, financial services, power, ICT and creative industries, with companies like Diageo, Unilever, PZ Cussons, GSK, Standard Chartered, Prudential, Savannah Energy, Clarke Energy and The Luxury Network established in Nigeria. Our partnership with Nigeria ranges from direct investment, to trade and technical assistance. The UK continues to work with Nigeria to remove barriers to trade, strengthen policy capacity and build stronger institutions. This will help transform the economy, reduce poverty, create jobs and raise incomes for those most in need, creating the economic base and resilience for long-term stability.
Which sectors of the Nigerian economy are most attractive to UK investors?
GRANT: Nigeria offers an array of business opportunities beyond oil and gas, which in fact accounts for less than 10% of Nigeria’s GDP. In 2020 the UK reached almost £3.4bn in bilateral trade with Nigeria, with UK exports amounting to £2bn and imports from Nigeria £1.4bn. The UK investment stock in Nigeria in 2019 was £5.1bn, an increase of £900m from 2018. Home to the largest number of tech unicorns in Europe, the UK should be a natural partner for Nigerian tech start-ups, a sector that already makes a bigger contribution to the economy than oil. The UK also has a competitive advantage in sectors such as financial and professional services, and infrastructure. We can match demands for capital and investment in Nigeria with deep and sophisticated markets in the City of London.
To help UK companies, we have identified areas where demand is strong, and that Nigeria’s federal and state governments have marked as priorities. For example, there are a lot of opportunities in both agriculture and energy, and UK companies are already active in power-generation and distribution projects in states like Bauchi, Kaduna and Ogun.
In what ways is the UK looking to develop trade with West Africa and Nigeria in particular?
GRANT: We have left the EU and are laying the foundations for a new legacy between the UK and African nations based on trade, investment, shared values and mutual interest. We are also forming new partnerships and signing new agreements with non-European partners. The UK-Africa Investment Summit (UK-AIS) held in January 2020 was organised to explore investment opportunities on the African continent, which is home to eight of the 15 fastest-growing economies in the world. Nigeria will continue to have a preferential trade relationship with the UK, and we intend to build further on our £3.4bn trade relationship and the £324m in deals announced at the 2020 UK-AIS. We will bring new UK companies to Nigeria in areas such as retail, financial and legal services, renewables, agriculture, education, health and infrastructure, and at the same time introduce Nigerian companies and investors to opportunities in the UK. We are encouraged by the active steps being taken by the Nigerian government to reduce red tape and bureaucracy, and welcome any commitment to transparency, as well as legislative and economic reform, as a long-term resolution to increasing investment and diversifying the economy. The UK is keen to continue working together with the Nigerian federal government to implement these changes.