Nigeria, the largest economy, biggest oil producer and most populous country in Africa, is a market with huge potential for UK businesses. The economy has been adversely affected by external shocks, in particular a fall in the global price of crude oil. Growth slowed sharply from 6.2% in 2014 to an estimated 3.0% in 2015. The Nigerian Government is looking at measures to lay a foundation for renewed growth.
Unfortunately the UK has dropped from being the number 1 non-oil goods exporter to Nigeria in 2000 to 5th now, but UK businesses are considered to be major players in Nigeria with firms such as Guinness/DIAGEO, Virgin, BA, Shell and Standard Chartered. I know that the Nigerian Government is committed to diversification of the economy, away from the traditional oil and gas into new and exciting sectors such as infrastructure and agriculture. In addition, PWC is predicting an increase to £7 billion by 2030 of non-oil and gas exports in a report I was able to launch while in Nigeria. On my last visit in Lagos, as well as visiting the Dangote refinery I was fascinated to visit sites such as Eko Atlantic City in Lagos, dubbed the future 'Manhattan of Africa'. The sheer size and ambition of this project, which has used technology to reclaim the land that has been lost due to coastal erosion, is fantastic. I also visited Cummins operations in Lagos. They design and manufacture natural gas fired generator sets. They are investing around £150 million in power related investments in the country over a period of five years through Joint Ventures operations, to provide captive power to industries to design, construct, operate as well as maintain gas-fuelled power plants in the country. This will greatly assist in developing the Nigerian infrastructure to enable factories and other facilities to operate more efficiently.
Of course after meeting the business community it was clear there are many challenges to doing business in Nigeria, for example Infrastructure, the cost of doing business, the need for skilled, trained workers along with access to finance. However these challenges also provide great opportunities going forward and I am convinced that UK companies, with our historic links to Nigeria, are well placed to capitalise on them. I am also very much looking forward to visiting Abuja at the end of February to take forward business discussions.