How Theresa May’s visit will impact Nigerian companies

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Nigeria last week amid pomp and ceremony. She took time to assure the Nigerian business community that the United Kingdom was ready to do business with Africa’s most populous country.

But beyond the fanfare, May’s visit has some implications for the Nigerian business community. This is predicated on the fact that May’s entourage included executives of some of the companies willing to do business with local firms. Some are private enterprises, while others are government institutions. This, according to those close to May, is an indication that the British government is ready to facilitate bilateral business between the two countries. One of the firms that were part of May’s delegation is Hydro Industries, a water technology firm that develops, designs and operates solutions for water purification and industrial effluent processing. The UK-based firm was launched in 2010, and according to it, “We’re thinking big and growing global.”

Clean water is a challenge in Nigeria and manufacturers spend millions annually on water treatment. Water in many parts of the country is unfit for human consumption and only two or three companies are in water treatment business in the country.

Here is an opportunity for interested firms and suppliers to make money.

Next is Northumbria Energy, which is bringing together individuals and organisations to provide energy access to 1.2 billion people around the world without access to electricity.

Managed by Tim Cantle-Jones, an entrepreneur based in the UK who has 25 years of experience working in Africa, the company believes that no or inadequate access to power is a significant constraint to economic and social development, and works with governments throughout Africa, NGOs and the donor agencies.

Part of May’s delegation was Bombadier Transportation, seen as world’s leading manufacturer of planes and trains. The company also provides train and rail equipment as well as category-defining business jets and commercial aircraft. Obviously aware of Nigeria’s ongoing rail projects, Bombadier is making efforts to penetrate the Nigerian market.

The Liverpool-based Clarke Energy was there.  It is a multinational specialist in distributing power generation solutions. But the company already has a presence in Nigeria, at Ikeja, Lagos.

“Our locally based team have delivered 300MW of electrical generation capacity to many large industrial facilities across Nigeria, seeking economical, reliable captive power plants,” the company says on its website.

Real Sector Watch also found that the Scotch Whisky Association was part of the delegation. This is a trade association that represents the Scotch whisky industry (spirit drink), which is a critical part of the Scottish economy, and particularly the Scottish export market. It operates as a non-profit organisation with David Frost as CEO.

There is no gainsaying that infrastructure is critical to Nigeria. To this end, the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) was also in the country with May, targeting mobilisation of private sector investment to assist developing countries in providing infrastructure vital to boosting their economic growth and combating poverty.

The London-based group is a conglomeration of key organisations such as UK Department for International Development, KfW, Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finance for Development, and International Finance Corporation, among others.

The UK Export Finance (UKEF) was predictably part of the delegation. The government institution is charged with the task of boosting export-focused UK firms with funding.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, the UKEF provided £2.5 billion to UK firms, helping 191 companies sell to 75 markets around the world.

It also lent £666 million directly to overseas buyers to help them buy from the UK – more than double the amount for 2016 to 2017.

“Through just one UKEF supplier fair we are securing at least $250 million of UK exports in support of the construction of two power plants in Iraq, led by Enka UK and General Electric,” the UKEF said.

The London Stock Exchange had a representative as well as the Financial Conduct Authority of the UK.

Interested Nigerians can get across to these firms through the UK High Commission, the British Council and the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC).

 Speaking in a telephone interview with Real Sector Watch,  Akin Olawore, president of NBCC, said composition of May’s delegation shows that Britain is ready for business.

“The excitement here is like a lover that has abandoned you and decides to come bank with a bang,”Olawore said.

“What is being done is that if the standards are low here, the UK comes in and trains our people to meet the stipulated standards.”

He pointed out that Nigerians can partner with UK businesses to leverage enormous opportunities that are yet to be explored.

ODINAKA ANUDU

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