IoD Africa Group Nigerian House Event

Nigeria /UK trade rose 73% in just one year – and the Institute of Directors is opening doors for businesses.

Joel Popoola, the head of the task force designed to improve trading ties between Africa and the United Kingdom reports from a recent roundtable of business leaders at the Nigerian High Commission in London hosted by Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola and organised by the IoD Africa Special Interest Group.

When we say the Institute of Directors can open doors for you – we really mean it!

A delegation of British business owners recently visited Nigeria House – within sight of Buckingham Palace – for a roundtable with Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola organised by the IoD Africa Special Interest Group.

Attendees heard that trade between Nigeria and UK rose from £3.3billion in 2021 to £6.8billion in 2022 – a year on year increase of 73%

But it was not all good news – Britain is nonetheless only Nigeria’s fifth largest trading partner, lagging behind the USA, China, the Netherlands and Germany.

Given Nigeria and the UK’s shared heritage – not to mention a common language and legal system – the UK could clearly be doing better, and the event suggested how.

Participants in particular heard about the opportunities in Nigeria for British businesses in the clean and renewable energy sector.

According to the World Bank, 85 million Nigerians still do not have access to grid electricity. That’s almost half the country.

The government is looking to address this through both offshore wind and solar, with the Nigerian off-grid solar market estimated to be among the fastest growing in Africa, increasing at a 22% a annual on average over the past 5 years.

Attendees also heard the details of the new Nigerian government’s economic priorities for the year – harmonisation of exchange control, the removal of certain fuel subsidies to redirect resources into other areas of the economy and a focus on the development of ports, and that Nigeria is actively seeking Foreign Direct Investment from the UK, in particular from manufacturers.

All of these initiatives are likely to make the country an even more attractive prospect for British businesses – and the event concluded with commitments for Action Plans to be developed to greater business links between the UK and Africa.

The event comes almost exactly one year before a major UK-Africa summit to be hosted by the Prime Minister. The summit will bring together Heads of State and Government from 24 African countries with British and African business leaders – showing the rising prominence of Africa in British trade policy, as demonstrated by Foreign Secretary James Cleverley’s recent visit to Freetown to sign a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at deepening the trade partnership between Sierra Leone and the UK.

As the Prime Minister has said:

“To grow the UK’s economy, create opportunities for growth and bolster our economic security, we must deepen our ties with partners across the world. This summit will ensure we are able to harness the potential of our relationships across Africa and grow our economies together”.

“The UK and Africa go far when we go together.”
Foreign Secretary

Africa is coming of age as a continent and its emerging markets offer huge untapped potential.

There is a huge cachet to buying British in Africa – and with 2 billion people, the majority under 25, projected to live on the continent by 2050 that markets is only going to get bigger. But a recent parliamentary report found that UK-Africa trade has ‘flat-lined’ – and accounts for just 2.5% of all UK trade, despite the fact that the world’s five fastest-growing economies were all African.

More needs to be done on both sides to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. That’s where the special interest group comes in – we aim to encourage business opportunities, boost networking and develop awareness of British businesses in Africa – and African businesses in Britain.

Doors are opening to British businesses across the continent of Africa – and the IoD through the Africa Special Interest Group is often the one holding them open.

Joel Popoola is the head of the Institute of Directors Special Interest Group for Africa which works to stimulate business opportunities, increase networking and grow awareness of British businesses in Africa – and African businesses in Britain and can be contacted at [email protected].

He is also a software entrepreneur, and Chief Executive of political engagement app Rate Your Leader.

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