Home Economy EU plans to support Nigeria’s economic integration, diversification efforts

EU plans to support Nigeria’s economic integration, diversification efforts

by Business News Report

The European Union (EU) says it is committed to supporting Nigeria in tackling issues hindering investment and trade to engender economic integration and diversification. The EU ambassador to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ms Samuela Isopi, gave the assurance at the 8th edition of the EU-Nigeria Business Forum tagged: “Nigeria and the New Economy,” on Thursday in Lagos. Isopi emphasised the need to have a vibrant diversified economy based on a business environment that is attractive to investors. She said the Nigerian economy, like other economies around the world, was faced with challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

“In the first quarter of 2022 the Nigerian economy grew by 3.1 per cent and this was driven by the non-oil sector. However, the economic situation remains difficult. Countries that are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic now face further challenges caused by the Russian-Ukraine war. In Nigeria, the shockwaves are already being felt on fuel, fertilisers and food prices. Therefore, Nigeria’s new economy should be focused on finding a path through difficult terrain, identifying opportunities and adopting a sustainable business approach,” she said. She added that the ongoing conflict in Europe brought to the fore the issue of Europe’s energy security and the need to diversify sources of gas imports for the EU and member states. “This will provide a win-win opportunity for Nigeria and the EU,” she said.

The ambassador said the EU remained the largest investor in Nigeria and the number one trading partner accounting for over 20 per cent of Nigeria’s trade with the world. She added that EU-Nigeria trade in 2021 rose to 28.7 billion Euros with a significant trade balance of over 6 billion Euros in favour of Nigeria, despite the global downturn in trade after the pandemic. “Nevertheless, these figures highlight a long-standing problem, which is the country’s dependency on oil and the urgent need to diversify. Nigeria has great potential in new fields of endeavour, but the new economy is also about putting forward innovative and modern solutions to established sectors. Tomorrow’s session would be dedicated to the climate-smart agricultural sector as a new growth engine. This is a critical sector to Nigeria as it relates to food security and creation of employment for the youth,” she said.

Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State stressed the need for a mutually beneficial relationship with the EU in the face of emerging dynamics in the global economy. “There have  been a lot of global disruptions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. The impact of these events has provided an opportunity for us to be more intentional, pragmatic and committed to improving partnerships and economic diversification. It is, therefore, pleasing to know that the 8th EU-Nigeria business forum is focused on backward integration policies, opportunities to increase gas exports to Europe and new initiatives for the agricultural sector, against the backdrop of current social and economic realities. This will help grow sustainable industrialisation, create jobs, food security and increase the volume of trade between European countries,” he said. Sanwo-Olu added that the Lagos State government, over the past eight months, had developed a 30-year development agenda to be achieved by 2052 and launched later in the year. He said the plan was all-inclusive in making Lagos a thriving economy by leveraging the Nigerian market to become the export hub for fast-moving consumer goods, increasing formal retail trade and with robust healthcare and transportation systems.

“In 2021, we launched an agricultural master plan to make Lagos a food secure state and we are on the verge of completing the biggest 32,000MT per hour capacity rice mill in the country. With Lagos being the main trade hub in West Africa and regional gateway for transit and port services, we will be opening the deep-sea ports in Lekki, which will further decongest the Tincan and Apapa ports,” he said. According to him, with the deep-sea ports project, Lagos will continue to remain a hub for international trade.“We also intend to establish a world-class international financial centre because the financial services sector accounts for 47 per cent of GDP in Lagos,  while Fintech investment in Nigeria has grown to almost 200 per cent. The tech space can drive value to about 10 to 15 per cent, which is currently about 3 per cent, making Lagos an investment destination for tech start-ups,” he said.

Also speaking, Prince Clem Agba, Minister of State, Finance, Budget and National Planning, said the business forum was in alignment with government policies and efforts at diversification. According to him, the national development plan of 2021-2025, which focuses on concentric diversification aims to unlock Nigeria’s potential for sustainable, holistic and inclusive national development. He said the plan identified critical macro-structural issues affecting concentric economic diversification and had proffered strategies for addressing them. “A robust macro-economic framework developed for the plan recognises that sectors have different growth potential, thus leveraging on those sectors with the highest potential for stimulating the growth of the Nigerian economy,” said Agba. According to him, some of the sectors with high growth potential and linkages are agriculture and food security; integrated rural development; manufacturing and industrialisation; tourism, hospitality and culture; digital economy; mining and solid minerals among others. The plan also seeks to generate 21 million jobs and lift 35 million Nigerians out of poverty, thereby setting the stage of achieving the government’s commitment of lifting about 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years,” he said.

Mary Ojulari, President, European Business Chamber (Eurocham), said the chamber would continue to leverage the strong partnership between the EU and Nigeria to enable businesses to thrive. She said “With a growing membership of over 40 companies, Eurocham  Nigeria actively promotes trade and investment whilst advocating for the adoption of European best standards. “Given the countless issues faced by European businesses, such as government policies, unstable fiscal monetary and trade policies, there is need for Eurocham to have consistent engagement with the government to drive success stories of business in Nigeria,” she said. 

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