Africa’s largest economy’s offers unique trading opportunitiesby Jake Sumner / March 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
Post-Brexit, Britain will face a trading challenge. This is one of the most important economic realities of our time. The subject was in the spotlight again last week, as the Office of National Statistics published a new report on Britain’s global trading relationships. Understandably, most attention was given to the United States and the European Union itself: deals with both will be vital to Britain’s future success.
But so too will the development of trading relationships with smaller economies, one example being a country 4,000 miles south of the UK. With 180m people, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, its biggest democracy and, as the International Monetary Fund reconfirmed in October, its largest economy. This presents a huge opportunity for trade—but the UK is letting this slip by.
When I was on a trade mission to Nigeria and Ghana in 2014 I was consistently asked by officials and business leaders why the UK had so little business presence in these countries. There was little dialogue between the countries at the senior level of government—surprisingly, as the UK was said to be scaling back in Francophone West Africa to concentrate in Anglophone Nigeria and Ghana.
Recently, I was in Nigeria again representing the UK as part of a G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA) mission. I met officials, businesses, advisers and politicians, and similar points were made—Britain is letting opportunities slip. The Netherlands and Belgium, for example, export more to Nigeria than the UK does. The UK government’s new Industrial Strategy Green Paper does signal a new approach of consortia and “Team UK,” with a view to Britain mirroring the success of countries like Germany, where trade missions involve companies of all sizes throughout supply-chains as one integrated package. But, as the UK’s Nigeria trade envoy, John Howell MP, has confirmed, there is much to do if Britain and Nigeria are to develop a successful trading relationship.
Brexiteers often argue that Britain’s exit from the EU will enable it to become a great global trading nation. They argue that Britain can focus on forging strong links once more with Commonwealth countries—such as Nigeria. The UK is well-placed here. Nigeria and Britain have shared legal systems, a shared language and entwined histories. After the US, the UK has the biggest diaspora population of Nigerians, and over 16,000 Nigerian…