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FG moves to deepen £3.5bn ties with UK via diaspora market

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Trade Commissioner for Africa, United Kingdom Department for International Trade (UKID), Emma Wade-Smith

The Trade Commissioner for Africa, United Kingdom Department for International Trade (UKID), Emma Wade-Smith, has stated that the trade volume between Nigeria and the United Kingdom has hit over £3.5 billion in 2020.

She however expressed the need for all hands to be on deck to improve the business environment of both countries to enhance bilateral ties.

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Besides, other stakeholders advocated the need to leverage the diaspora market to increase bilateral ties between the two countries.

She stated this at a webinar organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) tagged International Conference on Brexit: Opportunities for Africa and the United Kingdom.

According to her, UKID has identified a number of priority sectors to drive economic growth in Africa, which includes agriculture, energy, education, skills, health care, mining, defense and security, financial services and infrastructure.

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“We are not doing too badly and we have quite a few UK companies in Nigeria that have existed for many years, but we have an increasing number of newer companies coming in and understanding the opportunities to bring their exciting products to markets,” she added.

She said Nigeria is an important partner of the UK in terms of trade and investment relationships across the African continent.

“We are looking at how we can create trade agreements and arrangements that facilitate the greater, easier and cheaper flow of products and services around the world. We are also doing a lot to support UK businesses to scale up the range of opportunities across Africa both in terms of finding local partners and also identifying investment opportunities.

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Earlier, the President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Toki Mabogunje, said the event presents opportunities for deepening trade relations between the United Kingdom and Africa.

She added that UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) presents numerous trade and investment partnership opportunities in the African continent, maintaining that the population of Africa at 1.3 billion people would rise to 2.4 billion by 2050, according to reports of the United Nations (UN).

According to the LCCI boss, Africa with the youngest population in the world would drive the labour market as the young generation would lead in innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

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The LCCI president said Africa, with its free trade agreement and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.3 trillion, is now the largest free trade area in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), pointing out that with harmonised tariffs, rules and standards the African market is a market no investor would ignore.
She added that the United Kingdom accounts for 4.8 per cent of total African export, hoping that with Brexit, the percentage would be increased significantly as investments and trade volumes in African countries improves.

She noted that Africa and the United Kingdom have existing strong cultural and trade ties, saying that Africa is home to 19 out of the 53 member states in the commonwealth with many of them bringing in investment opportunities.
She said UK’s trade with Africa has been trending downwards from $49 billion peaks in 2012, stressing that the trade volume has decreased to $30.6 billion in 2018 with Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) from the UK to Africa is also on the decline.

The British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Ben Liewellyn-Jones, said the UK export finance is looking at ways on how they can support infrastructure projects in Nigeria, saying that part of his role as Deputy High Commissioner is to try to bring about economic growth to move past economic difficulties.

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He said discussions are ongoing with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to bring about the free flow of exchange rate allowing for the free flow of foreign exchange, which is very critical to so many businesses who engage in port operations.

The Chairperson, Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri Erewa, called on the need to leverage a huge diaspora population in the UK, stressing that encouraging trade investment with several summits to improve trade is apt for economic growth and development.

“It is should be a mutually beneficial relationship working together. Seek opportunity for the diaspora in the UK to ensure better trade. Brexit creates a unique opportunity for Africa nation to leverage on,” she said.

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The Director-General, LCCI, Muda Yusuf, said the webinar is to get more insight into the opportunities that exist in Brexit for the United Kingdom and for African countries focusing on Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa.

“With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), it has even become more important because we are talking about the largest market and largest free trade market in the world. The Chamber is active in the policy advocacy space because we know that we have to create a better environment, policy-wise, regulation wise in order to create the inflow of FDIs,” he said.

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