According to the United Nations, Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26% of the world's refugee population which is estimated at 65.5 million people. My role as the Prime Minister's Trade Envoy to Nigeria is to promote trade and investment with Nigeria, challenge perceptions, which will ultimately lead to prosperity and a country in which people are optimistic about their future.
Firstly one of the key themes in all of my visits is around changing perceptions. Nigeria is often viewed through a single lens from the UK and I am keen to show the opportunities which exist there. It is a country predicted to grow to 400 million people by 2050. We have a $4 billion annual trading relationship with Nigeria and a stock of $1.5 billion of Foreign Direct Investment. I see my job as more important than ever in helping to drive up trade between our nations and I am keen to show the opportunities which exist there.
Yes; it has the world's 10th largest proven oil reserves and the 9th largest natural gas reserves but there are also huge opportunities for UK companies to support the government of Nigeria's diversification agenda. Highlights on my visit included, visiting a smart city 'Eko Atlantic' (billed as the fasted growing city in Nigeria) to explore the exciting opportunities for British infrastructure companies to support these impressive growing cities in Nigeria. Eko Atlantic will be built on land reclaimed from the sea and will become home to at least 250,000 residents, with commuter volumes expected to exceed 150,000 people daily. It is great to see the interest to partner with UK companies following on from a recent infrastructure trade delegation to the UK.
It was fantastic to meet with companies operating in the agricultural sector; only just having welcomed the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture on a visit to London. We discussed how British companies could best help; the UK is of course leading in innovation in agri-tech and education. Following on from this I had a meeting with BAU group (one of the biggest conglomerates in West Africa), to scope opportunities. I was also able to visit new sectors in Nigeria that the UK is excelling in. A data centre in Lagos (state-of-the-art, tier III constructed facility certified data centre) which was straight out of Silicon Valley. Yet its technology and expertise is British!
Following my visit it is now even more evident that there is a strong desire for British products and expertise in the Nigerian market, and there is no excuse for companies to be missing out.
I was also able to visit Unilever which has been operating in Nigeria for almost 100 years and to hear about its firm approach against modern day slavery throughout its supply chain – to great competitive advantage. It was a real pleasure to see some of the vital work UK companies are doing to stem exploitation and support the Prime Minister's anti-modern slavery agenda.
The UK is also supporting Nigeria through a focused aid programme and private sector investment. We have already increased the income of 1.3 million Nigerians since 2015. By 2019 we will have helped 7.8 million people to have better nutrition and 500,000 children to have a decent education. Nigeria has a quarter of Africa's extreme poor, with about 100 million people living on less than £1 a day. However I believe the best long-term, and most far reaching, solution is trade and investment in the country, to create prosperity for all. It is job creation that lifts people out of poverty. It is what Nigeria wants and it is what we are providing with very strong mutual advantage to British companies interested in the market. I was really pleased to see that Nigeria has risen 24 places in the World Bank Ease of doing business report to 145th in the index, a testament to their commitment.
I am not asking for companies to be charitable by investing in Nigeria. Quite the opposite; they can and should be making good profits from the exercise. But I am asking companies to consider a market which is growing and which will provide rich opportunities. I can think of no higher purpose for the Prime Minister's Trade Envoy to Nigeria to aspire to or for the Henley constituency to support than help boosting trade and investment.