The European Union (EU) has unveiled plans to extend its research and innovation programme with 80 billion Euros to Nigerian companies, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), seeking support to engage in research and innovation.
This was made known by head of EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Michel Arrion, at the 5th EU-Nigeria Business Forum which ended recently in Lagos.
The European Union and Nigeria have developed robust economic relations with very large trade volumes at €30 billion in 2015.
The EU is also the top destination for oil and non-oil exports from Nigeria. Nigeria is a key beneficiary of EU Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with FDI stock of €30 billion in 2015.
EU Investment stock in Nigeria grew from €23.8 billion in 2013 to €25.3 billion in 2014.
But, with the fall in oil prices, EU-Nigeria trade declined by 26.7 per cent to €30bn in 2015.
Ambassador Arrion disclosed that the inclusion of Nigerian entities to partake of the 80 billion Euros research and innovation fund, particularly on agriculture, was informed by the country’s most obvious comparative advantage for diversifying her economy.
He said the business forum which is in its 5th edition is to create opportunity for business leaders from Nigeria, the EU and other African countries to share ideas, discuss business opportunities and ways to improve business relations and attract investment to Nigeria.
Arrion described the Horizon 2020 programme as the biggest EU research and innovation programme in recent times.
Speaking specifically on the Forum, he expressed delight that the most tangible result of last year’s forum was the commencement of an agricultural policy dialogue between the EU and Nigeria.
He said: “The agricultural policy dialogue was officially launched in September, and is gradually intensifying, as witnessed by the presence this week in Nigeria (and today here at the Forum) of Mr Clarke, the Director of International Relations of the Directorate General for Agriculture of the European Commission.”
Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello, said the outcome of the 4th edition of the EU-Nigeria Business Forum last year, which focused on addressing obstacles to the effective development of the agricultural value chain, showed that the Lagos State Government has achieved significant progress in that regard. According to him, Lagos State Government six months ago signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kebbi State Government on rice, wheat, groundnut, onions, maize and beef value chain.
“This partnership will contribute to national self sufficiency in rice production by about 70 per cent,” he said. “Just yesterday we opened the maiden edition of the Lagos Food Security Summit and Exhibition with the objective of highlighting investment opportunities in the agricultural value chain.”
Also speaking, President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Nike Akande said the business forum aligns very well with LCCI’s trade promotion agenda which is focused on building international partnerships and alliances for the promotion of investment and trade flows between Nigeria and friendly countries.
She said that Nigeria needs to attract as much investment as possible at this crucial time, adding that industrialization is key to economic development and employment generation. In her words: “The decline in the price of crude oil has changed our development focus for good. We are now focusing on the non-oil sector. I believe that government’s focus on the provision of infrastructure will help the growth of investments in the non-oil sector. I want the EU to pay less attention to the perceived risks of doing business in Nigeria and focus more on the numerous opportunities in Nigeria.”
This year’s edition of the EUNBF, tagged “Harnessing Nigeria’s Potential for Economic Growth”, according to the organizers was put together with three main objectives: to explore options for accessing long term finance for the critical power sector in Nigeria; to identify opportunities in the textile value chain and to explore opportunities for EU and Nigerian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to increase their business market through the platform of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
Highpoint of the Business Forum was the formal launch of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Nigeria, a platform that evolved from a consortium of Nigerian-Belgian Chamber of Commerce, the Chambers of Commerce of Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt.