NNN: The European Union (EU) declares that it is committed to helping Nigeria resolve the problems that hinder investment and trade in order to promote economic integration and diversification.
The Ambassador of the EU to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mrs. Samuela Isopi, gave the assurance during the 8th edition of the EU-Nigeria Business Forum under the theme: “Nigeria and the new economy”, Thursday in Lagos.
Isopi stressed the need for a vibrant diversified economy based on an attractive business environment for investors.
She said the Nigerian economy, like other economies around the world, was facing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
“In the first quarter of 2022, the Nigerian economy grew by 3.1% and this was driven by the non-oil sector. However, the economic situation remains difficult.
“Countries still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic now face new challenges caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war.
“In Nigeria, the shock waves are already being felt in fuel, fertilizer and food prices.
“Therefore, Nigeria’s new economy should focus on finding a way through difficult terrain, identifying opportunities and adopting a sustainable business approach,” she said.
She added that the ongoing conflict in Europe has brought to the fore the issue of Europe’s energy security and the need to diversify gas import sources for the EU and member states.
“It will provide a win-win opportunity for Nigeria and the EU,” she said.
The Ambassador said the EU remained Nigeria’s largest investor and largest trading partner, accounting for over 20% of Nigeria’s trade with the world.
She added that EU-Nigeria trade in 2021 reached €28.7 billion with a sizable trade balance of over €6 billion in favor of Nigeria, despite the global slowdown in trade post-pandemic.
“Nevertheless, these figures highlight a long-standing problem, which is the country’s dependence on oil and the urgency to diversify.
“Nigeria has great potential in new areas of business, but the new economy is also about bringing innovative and modern solutions to established sectors.
“Tomorrow’s session would be dedicated to the climate-smart agriculture sector as a new engine of growth. This is a critical sector for Nigeria when it comes to food security and job creation for young people,” she said.
Governor 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 many global disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war.
“The impact of these events has given us the opportunity to be more intentional, pragmatic and committed to improving partnerships and economic diversification.
“So it is nice to know that the 8th EU-Nigeria Business Forum is focusing on upstream integration policies, opportunities to increase gas exports to Europe and new initiatives for the agricultural sector, in the context of current social and economic realities.
“This will help develop sustainable industrialization, create jobs, ensure 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 has drawn up a 30-year development plan to be achieved by 2052 and launched later in the year.
He said the plan was comprehensive to make Lagos a thriving economy by leveraging the Nigerian market to become the export hub for fast-moving consumer goods, increasing formal retail and with health systems and sturdy transport.
“In 2021, we launched an agricultural master plan to make Lagos a food secure state and we are on the verge of completing the largest rice mill with a capacity of 32,000 tonnes per hour in the country.
“Lagos being the main trade hub in West Africa and the regional gateway for transit and port services, we will open the deep water ports of Lekki, which will further decongest the ports of Tincan and of Apapa,” he said.
According to him, with the deep water ports project, Lagos will continue to remain a hub of international trade.
“We also intend to establish a world-class international financial center as the financial services sector accounts for 47% of GDP in Lagos, while Fintech investments in Nigeria have reached almost 200%.
“The tech space can increase in value by around 10-15%, which is currently around 3%, 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 line with government policies and diversification efforts.
According to him, the National Development Plan 2021-2025, which emphasizes 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 proposed strategies to address them.
“A robust macro-economic framework developed for the plan recognizes that sectors have different growth potential, thereby leveraging sectors with the highest potential to drive the growth of the Nigerian economy,” Agba said.
According to him, some of the sectors with high growth potential and linkages are agriculture and food security; integrated rural development; manufacturing and industrialization; tourism, hospitality and culture; Digital Economy; mining and solid minerals, among others.
“The plan also aims to create 21 million jobs and lift 35 million Nigerians out of poverty, paving the way for the realization of the government’s commitment to lift about 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years.” , did he declare.
Mary Ojulari, President of the European Chamber of Commerce (Eurocham), said the chamber will 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 while advocating for the adoption of the best European standards.
“Given the myriad issues facing European businesses such as government policies, unstable fiscal, monetary and trade policies, there is a need for Eurocham to engage consistently with government to drive business successes in Nigeria,” she said.