Building a New Era of US-Nigeria Commercial Relations

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Message from the Chairman

February 2020

Since its inception, the Council has carved out a unique place in the trade/investment promotion space, advancing US-Nigeria commercial relations while leveraging the strength of its membership to act as a convener, bringing together the resources and vision of US and Nigerian corporate executives with some of the most innovative entrepreneurs on the African continent. One of our earliest collaborations, for example, was in Tomato Jos, an initiative launched by a young American to empower Nigerian farmers and leverage the country’s position as the largest producer of tomatoes in West Africa to manufacture a “made in Nigeria” tomato paste, reducing the need to import from China. Another USNC collaboration project, in Reel Fruit, enabled a Nigerian businesswoman to scale up her production of healthy snacks made from local produce, and we then facilitated her discussions with representatives of a major US airline about placing her product on its international flights.

For the past two years, and in response to sustained input from our members, the Council has focused its energy on Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, working to support the vision of a “Naija Valley” tech hub that can incubate the talents of the astonishing diversity of Nigerian entrepreneurs operating in this space. We heard from many of these gifted young start-up representatives during our events in Washington and New York, and we offered them a prominent platform at our December 2019 dinner in Lagos. We are now compiling a report for our members with a snapshot of each of these exciting companies and we hope to build on the synergies created during our 2019 events to empower them in a more sustained fashion.

The Council continues to enjoy outstanding connectivity to the highest levels of the US and Nigerian governments. We were honored to count among our distinguished guests at our 2019 events Executive Governors, Federal Ministers, the Governor of the Central Bank and the leadership of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, His Highness the Emir of Kano, senior US State Department officials, and the United States Ambassador to Nigeria. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard is an old friend and colleague, and I know she and her team in Abuja and Lagos will be wonderful advocates for stronger commercial ties between the United States and Nigeria. Since the US and Nigeria established a ministerial level Commercial Investment Dialogue (CID), the USNC has been an active participant. In a new partnership, we provided support for the January 2020 visit to Nigeria of the President of Yale University.

Thank you to the continued support of our members.

Who We Are

The U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC) is the premier organization dedicated to strengthening commercial and business ties between the United States and Nigeria. The Council builds and supports long-term business partnerships between US and Nigerian companies that drive innovation, entrepreneurship, technology transfer, job creation, and economic growth in both economies.

USNC membership offers high-level services, including exclusive access to meetings and events, executive business intelligence and council advocacy for member issues and priorities.

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News
LAGOS—DECEMBER 12, 2019— The U.S. Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade, and Investment (USNC) convened a high-level business dinner with the top Nigerian and American policy-makers and business leaders to discuss how to deepen U.S.-Nigerian commercial ties and support the growth of the digital economy in Nigeria.

The USNC, a business organization dedicated to fostering commercial ties between the U.S. and Nigeria, gathered members and over 100 leading entrepreneurs, U.S. and Nigerian investors, representatives from multinational companies, and government officials to celebrate Nigeria’s digital innovators, consider how companies and investors can support local entrepreneurs, and discuss increasing the ease of doing business in the economy.

Attendees at the dinner included the Honorable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo; the Honorable Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah; the Executive Governor of Lagos State Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; the Executive Governor of Kaduna State Mallam Nasir El-Rufai; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Mr. Godwin Emefiele. U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard and U.S. Consul General Claire Pierangelo also joined the dinner in a strong display of support for strengthening U.S.-Nigeria commercial ties.

USNC members who attended included John Coumantaros, Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria, Jim Ovia, Chairman of Zenith Bank, Wale Tinubu, CEO of Oando, Femi Akinware, CEO of Exchange Telecommunications, Victor Okoronkwo of Aiteo Group, Kola Aina, CEO of Ventures Platform, and representation from Udo, Udoma, and Belo Osagie law firm. Other notable attendees included Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Suresh Chellaram; Eme Essien, Nigeria Country Manager for the International Finance Corporation; Ronald Chagoury of Eko Atlantic; as well as senior representation from the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.

USNC invited young entrepreneurs to speak at the dinner and share their successes and visions for expanding in Nigeria and beyond. Agboola Olugbenga, CEO of Flutterwave; Mira Mehta, CEO of Tomato Jos; Dr. Emmanuel Okelji, CEO of Seamless HR; and Kola Aina of Ventures Platform were among those who shared their experiences with the assembled dignitaries and guests, which also included burgeoning innovators such as Gbolahan Obanikoro of Nairagram, Etop Ikpe of Cars45, Odunayo Eweniyi of PiggyVest, D.O Olusanya of Gloopro, Lucy Parry of Carry1st, and Elo Umeh of Terragon.
The Honorable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Adebayo said “When I listen to all of you young entrepreneurs, I am very inspired” and added a call to action, stating “I need you to engage with me so that I can build advantageous policies to support you.”

In addition to the large turnout of start-ups, U.S. tech giants operating in Nigeria like Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, and Tesla were present to contribute to the discussion. U.S. companies investing in Nigeria will play an important role in bolstering the entrepreneurial ecosystem and innovative digital space as a model for the rest of Africa. “As an inevitable destination for investment, Nigeria is poised to lead as a tech powerhouse on the continent. Its success can drive growth and model innovation across the continent,” said USNC Chairman Ambassador McCulley.

In line with the USNC’s mission to convene high-level industry leaders and advocate for inclusive growth, the Lagos dinner created a C-Suite level forum for dialogue between entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and policy makers. The Council’s work actively supports Nigeria’s national strategy for economic prosperity and promotes US commercial diplomacy in Nigeria. The USNC’s focus on leveraging digital technology for national economic development resonates with the Government of Nigeria’s priorities.

NEW YORK CITY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2019—On the margins of the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, the U.S. Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade, and Investment (USNC) convened a breakfast focused on strengthening Nigeria’s digital economy attended by the CEOs of Nigeria’s leading companies, the Honorable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Executive Governors of Edo and Kwara States and leading entrepreneurs.
The USNC, a business organization dedicated to fostering commercial ties between the US and Nigeria, gathered members and more than 40 key stakeholders to discuss the deepening technology ecosystem in Nigeria and how it is well positioned for increased collaboration between entrepreneurs and corporates.
“Foreign investment is vital to building the technology ecosystem in Nigeria,” said Ambassador (ret.) Terence McCulley, Chairman of the USNC and Director of the Africa Practice at McLarty Associates. “We need to harness innovation to create long-lasting growth to continue to build a Naija Valley to rival that of Silicon Valley.”
The breakfast helped create a dialogue between leading entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and policy makers.
“We must create the governmental environment that will help these technology start-ups flourish,” said H.E. Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Honorable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment of Nigeria. “The government is helping to launch several technology hubs, and it’s important we put more resources into this.”
The developmental impact that technological innovation and corporate venture partnerships was central to the conversation.
“When we apply our minds to utilize innovation and technology to boost our goals in education and health, we will see great social returns,” said His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. “Three million children are out of school in the north of the country, but there’s not enough funding for schools and teachers. Digital innovation can help us think beyond the conventional ways to solve this problem.”
Increasing collaboration between corporates and tech entrepreneurs to stimulate economic growth is picking up steam in Nigeria. Dr. Emmanuel Okeleji, CEO of SeamlessHR, spoke about how his company is offering a full range of digital human resources and administrative services in an African context for corporations doing business on the continent.
“We know doing business here is different from doing business in other parts of the world, so it’s important that our HR solutions are also context specific,” said Okeleji. “We are partnering with companies operating in Nigeria and beyond to make sure that their administrative burden is reduced.”
The growing desire for greater discussion and collaboration was evident throughout the event, but no more so than by the participation of many USNC members, including John Coumantaros, Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria, Jim Ovia, Chairman of Zenith Bank, Wale Tinubu, CEO of Oando, and a representative from Chevron. In addition to His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano, and H.E. Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment of Nigeria, other notable attendees included H.E. Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, Honorable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, H.E. Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State, H.E. Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, Governor of Kwara State, Bosun Tijani, CEO of Co-Creation Hub, Kola Aina of Ventures Platform and Nichole Yembra, Founder of The Chrysalis Capital.
June 19, 2019 | Washington, D.C.

The US-Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade & Investment (USNC) notes the alleged infractions of securities regulations by Oando PLC. Oando PLC, as a founding member of the Council and as an active and valued participant in the Council’s activities, plays an important role in promoting business and direct investment in Nigeria.

The Council and its members are committed to strengthening the commercial relations between the United States and Nigeria and recognize the importance that strong capital markets play in attracting foreign investment, creating new jobs and stimulating economic growth. As part of this, it is critical that the regulatory framework governing Nigeria’s capital markets remain robust, with due process and fair and equitable treatment for all parties.

The Council has confidence in the regulatory authorities and the Nigerian judicial system, and advocates for this matter to be resolved with transparency, due process and full respect for the rule of law.

The Council will continue its mission to promote opportunities in Nigeria to US investors and advance commercial partnerships that contribute to economic growth in Nigeria.

In April, the USNC hosted an exclusive dinner on the margins of the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in Washington D.C. Attendees at the dinner discussed the evolving direction of US-Nigerian commercial relations and emerging business opportunities.

The US Nigeria Council hosted a Washington, DC reception and dinner focused on the digital economy on the margins of the IMF-World Bank week in April 2018.

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The U.S. Nigeria Council hosted a New York deal making dinner on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September 2017.

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The U.S. Nigeria Council hosted high-level private and public sector representatives for a breakfast on July 25, 2017. Guests were given an exclusive briefing on evolving U.S.-Nigeria relations by a high level U.S. Embassy official. The briefing was followed by intimate discussion about business opportunities and strengthening U.S.-Nigeria relations.

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The U.S. Nigeria Council hosted the Nigerian launch of the Council in March 2017.

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The U.S. Nigeria Council welcomed high-level private and public sector representatives for a reception and dinner on April 14, 2016. With remarks from Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State and the Council Co-Chairs. guests were introduced to USNC’s vision and objectives.

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USNC hosts several events a year in Washington DC, New York City, and Lagos. Please contact info@usnigeriacouncil.org to learn about upcoming events.
 

Our Purpose

Regionally in-tune, the Council’s work actively supports Nigeria’s national strategy for economic prosperity and US commercial diplomacy. With the support of key Nigerian political and economic institutions including the Nigerian Sovereign Trust Fund, the Council helps to advance critical trade and investment initiatives by maximizing industrial free trade zones, diversifying exports, integrating agro-investments into global supply chains, and matching energy development to production needs.

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The Council has twenty permanent members, 10 U.S. and 10 Nigerian, two co-chairs and an executive director. In addition, the Council offers rotating membership opportunities to ensure the inclusion of entrepreneurs and representatives from small and medium sized companies with interests in Nigeria.

Founding Members