COVID-19: Nigerian-British bilateral relationship remains strong – Envoy

The Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) has commended Nigeria’s commitment to the removal of fuel subsidy, tackling forex regime and reforming the power sector.

The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Harriet Thompson, made the commendation in a report  on Thursday.

The report stemmed from the Bilateral Trade Webinar with the theme: ”Nigerian-British Bilateral Relationship Post COVID-19”.

Thompson said that the focus of the British Government in Nigeria was to support economic development and grow the private sector which, she noted, had become more relevant to ameliorate the impact of COVID-19.

She, however, noted that in spite of the steady rise of Nigeria in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, nagging issues still existed.

The envoy listed the issues to include movement of goods to and from ports and within the country, access to foreign exchange, bureaucracy and land registration.

The deputy high commissioner commended the steps the nation had taken to tackle the spread of the coronavirus which, she said, came  at a heavy economic cost.

“Allowing movement of goods within the country would help businesses and the most vulnerable to mitigate the impact of the virus.

“In addition, a great opportunity exists to implement reforms such as the Single Window which the Federal Government has committed to.

“UK is also still highly active in supporting these reforms by providing technical assistance to organisations such as the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council  and other programmes that are supporting infrastructure, agriculture, market skills, and the technology sector,” she said.

On the commitments made at the UK-Africa Investment Summit held in January, Thompson said that many of the initiatives had yet to take off because of the pandemic.

“There had, however, been slow but steady progress on the collaborations including the £37 Million Growth Gateway Programme of business support services for trade and investment across Africa.

“The British Government is supporting innovation and local production of Personal Protective Equipment, facilitating  understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the technology sector and seeking ways to support the growth of digital healthcare in Nigeria,” she said.

According to Thompson, the UK Export Finance (UKEF) also provides funding for export or import of UK products.

“However, despite a recently expanded appetite for risk finance in Nigeria, the current portfolio is only about three per cent of total UKEF exposure, and UKEF would like to significantly increase the portfolio.

“This will benefit small and medium enterprises aiming to expand and diversify their operations by exporting,” she said.

Prince Bimbo Olashore, Vice President, NBCC, noted the effect of COVID-19 on the Nigerian capital market.

Olashore said that the outlook was highly positive as the stock market was dominated by companies in infrastructure, telecommunications and banking.

“The doomsday conspiracy seems to be receding, which means we are not expecting much damage.

“Nigeria’s main issue has always been diversification; Nigeria is not an oil and gas economy because this sector barely contributes up to 12 per cent to the gross domestic product.

“What we have to do is to stimulate all the other areas with an increased focus on agriculture, information technology and other emerging sectors,’’ he said.

Source: Voice of Nigeria