The government of the United Kingdom (UK) has expressed its desire to strengthen its trade and investment ties with Africa following the country’s withdrawal from the European Union, tagged Brexit. This was made known at an international conference on Brexit, themed opportunities for Africa and the United Kingdom, hosted by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI).
Ben Llewellyn-Jones, British Deputy High Commissioner, said that Brexit has presented immense opportunities both the United Kingdom and Africa can build on, adding that the focus will be on economic development, reforms, and business expansion. “We are on the lookout for traditional partners and new entrants that share this aspiration, through this, infrastructural projects can be developed in Nigeria which will actively drive FDI inflow furthermore the development of crucial sectors like technology will be developed in conformity with prevailing standards,” he said.
He urged the Nigerian government to however provide an enabling environment for the ambition to thrive particularly with the use of reformative policies as well as the availability and easy accessibility of foreign exchange. Toki Mabogunje, President, LCCI said Britain’s departure from the EU presents numerous trade and investment partnership opportunities for the African continent particularly as new sectors and investment sources emerge.
“With Brexit, our expectation is that this percentage would increase significantly as investment and trade volumes with African countries improve. This would create jobs and boost growth in Africa and the United Kingdom,” Mabogunje said. She noted that despite the relationship between UK and Africa, trade has declined from a $49 Billion peak in 2012 to $30.6 Billion in 2018, while FDI from the UK to Africa declined to $45 Billion.
“We need to collectively invigorate the UK-Africa trade and investment relations. Turning things around must start with a critical look at the current trade regime and construct new strategies for the future,” she said.
Emma Wade-Smith, United Kingdom Trade Commissioner for Africa said that the UK wants to facilitate easier, cheaper trade with Nigeria as the U.K Government plans more trade deals with African nations post Brexit. “COVID-19 pandemic impact is small compared to what we will get from climate change so we must do everything we can to limit the extensive climate disruptions. Those things include sustainable infrastructure, healthcare and water products and how they can reduce our carbon footprint to drive economic growth,” she said
She added that the U.K would look into partnering with Nigeria in sectors including agriculture, energy, education, and skills acquisition, healthcare and life sciences, mining, defense and security, financial services and the creative industry. Some of the plans by the U.K. include building from the base by sourcing local partners, identifying opportunities in both countries that are mutually beneficial, We will also be utilising preferential trading agreement in increasing exports and imports between us and providing technical and other supports,” she said.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Executive Chairperson, Nigeria Diaspora Commission commended the move to improve the beneficial relationship between both countries particularly in trade and investments, she added that the Nigerian government will also make efforts to provide an enabling environment as requested for the aspiration to thrive.