UK, Nigeria to improve trade relations

Laure Beaufils, Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria joined CNBC Africa’s Esther Awoniyi from the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange to discuss how the relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom can be improved.

Over the decades Nigeria and the U.K have ad quite a good relationship in terms of foreign policy and trade but I know that now with economies around the globe facing difficulty there seems to be a wave of protectionism sweeping the globe. In terms of Nigeria’s relationship with the United Kingdom, what are both countries doing to improve trade and foreign relations?
First I’ll take the trade side. We in the U.K are certainly not being protectionist right now. As you know we’re about to emabrk on the exit from the European Union so we are increasingly focused on forming partnerships with the rest of the world and countries in Africa in particular. We are really committed to strengthening our partnerships between U.K businesses and Nigerian businesses. There are significant investments that the United Kingdom is making through the department of International Investment. We’re supporting growth, we’re supporting supply chains, we’re investing in the North East for example and we’re supporting the government to put in place the institutions that are necessary for sustainable and inclusive growth. On the foreign policy perspective we’re working close with the government to support where we can on the ease of doing business, on foreign exchange issues, and on public finance management. We’re all in support of inclusive growth in Nigeria.

There have been roadshows by the U.K government that included businessmen looking for Nigerian sectors that they think they could do business in. Have there been any concrete deals so far?
Yes. There have, there have been numerous deals and these are deals that are being signed regularly. As you know there have been road shows to Nigeria and there have been road shows from Nigeria to the U.K. In fact there are two that are coming up specifically in Agri-business and Infrastructure. While, traditionally, we may have been more focused on oil and gas, now we’re really looking to expand and diversify alongside the government of Nigeria’s priorities for diversification in Agri-business, infrastructure, health and education and of course in manufacturing. I think we’ve got a strong number of British businesses working here, and our intention is for that to go from strength to strength.

Let’s talk about the security. The Nigerian government is partnering with the United Kingdom to deal with the unrest in the North East. Can you tell us specifically the ways in which the UK is partnering with Nigeria to deal with the insurgency in Nigeria’s North East?
We’re doing this through different government departments in the U.K. We have military partnerships and we have development support as well which has been focused on humanitarian aid but will be shifting towards how we can help support the livelihoods of the people in the North East. We want them to have genuine employment opportunities and we want them to have ways to improve their lives and the lives of their children.

How worried is the U.K about the situation in Nigeria’s North East and how Nigeria’s government is handling it?
Obviously we are worried about instability, conflict, we’re also worried about the human toll that the conflict is taking and how it is further contributing to loss of income and livelihoods and slowing growth. We’re worried about that and we are working with the government to address that. However, I do think that there is a case for increased attention to the region. We’re hoping that the government is going to take a leadership position in investing in the region and investing in humanitarian aid and ensuring that further investments and jobs come through in the North East in particular but obviously in other regions as well.

Finally speaking about aid, it’s been in the news that the U.K government is decreasing the amount of aid to Nigeria in the next couple of years. Can you confirm that for us?
Yes I think there’s been a misunderstanding on that. There is absolutely no plan to decrease the amount of aid that will go to Nigeria through the department for international development. What the DFID Secretary of State said when she was in Nigeria recently was that there would be £200 million allocated to humanitarian aid in the North East over the next 4 years and that roughly is £50 million a year which is less than the £100 million in a year that is going to be given in humanitarian aid this year in Nigeria. As a whole however, the amount of aid will not decrease. It is going to be shifting to livelihoods. It’s going to be going to economic transformation, and to human development and the like. What we are hoping to do through that small decrease is encourage others to step up and also provide resources and also give space to the government for it to demonstrate its leadership in tackling the situation in the North East. If the situation warrants it, we will reconsider what levels of aid are important and necessary and the DFID Secretary of State will make a decision as and when appropriate.



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