Building a New Era of US-Nigeria Commercial Relations

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Message from the Chairman

July 2020

The last few months have presented unprecedented challenges to the U.S.- Nigeria partnership. The United States has become the worst-affected country in the world by coronavirus, with over 3 million confirmed cases. Meanwhile, Nigeria is battling the twin shocks of a global oil price crash and a coronavirus-induced global economic slowdown. The World Bank says the outbreak could push as many as 5 million additional Nigerians into poverty as it triggers the country’s worst recession in over three decades.

Amid much concern surrounding the pandemic, I am heartened to see the Nigerian business community stepping up and utilizing their assets and funds for social good at this critically important time, including several U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC) members. In March, less than a month after Nigeria’s index case, a group of leading companies launched The Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) in an effort to help the government respond to coronavirus in Nigeria. To date, the coalition has raised more than $72 million in funds to supply medical necessities and food relief across the country.

The government has also responded to exceedingly challenging circumstances with prudent policy measures, passing the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill 2020 in March to provide much needed support to Nigerian businesses and families. A month later, the government announced transfers of 20,000 Naira to poor and vulnerable households registered in the National Social Register. The Central Bank’s stimulus measures also offer a credit of 3 million Naira ($7,700) to poor families impacted by the pandemic. The Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan, the twelve month 2.3 trillion naira ($5.9 billion) successor of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, that was recently released by the government will also help with economic recovery, doubling down on key sectors including agriculture, infrastructure, and technology.

In June, we were privileged to hear directly from Nigerian Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment His Excellency Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo and U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria The Honorable Mary Beth Leonard about the country’s response to the pandemic and the role of the private sector in public health and economic recovery. At this time of historic upheaval, I was pleased to hear about the various ways the United States is working in tandem with Nigeria to combat the pandemic. The special relationship the United States enjoys with Nigeria is more important now than ever before, and we look forward to working with you to advance U.S.-Nigeria relations through these unparalleled global challenges. My very best wishes to you all during this challenging time.

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
WASHINGTON, DC—On Thursday, September 10, the U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC) hosted a virtual event in collaboration with the Milken Institute on the role of health tech in tackling COVID-19 in Nigeria. Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and USNC Chairman Terence McCulley welcomed guests and kickstarted the event, which featured a fireside chat between Milken Institute Chairman Mike Milken and the Vice President of Nigeria, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Vice President Osinbajo highlighted the leading role he expects the health tech sector to play in Nigeria’s health and economic recovery from COVID-19. He referenced his government’s new Economic Sustainability Plan, which prioritizes upskilling the labor force for the digital age and providing support for tech entrepreneurs. He also noted his government’s efforts to implementing a new STEM-oriented curriculum in primary and secondary schools, as well as engagements with state governments to eliminate right of way charges for broadband installation. Combining the themes of private sector participation and technology, he lauded health tech companies for helping the Nigerian government to deliver welfare programs to the masses during the pandemic.

Following the fireside chat, Milken Institute “FasterCures” Executive Director Esther Krofah moderated a panel on the role of health tech in Nigeria’s response to COVID-19. Panelists included 54gene Founder and CEO Abasi Ene-Obong; Coronation Capital Chairman Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; USNC Member Seplat Petroleum Chairman Bryant Orjiako; and Medsaf Co-Founder Vivian Nwakah. Panelists focused on various challenges facing the heath tech sector in Nigeria, including access to finance and human capital limitations.

WASHINGTON, DC—On Tuesday, June 9, the U.S.-Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade & Investment (USNC) hosted a virtual roundtable on U.S.-Nigeria relations during COVID-19 and the role of the private sector in public health and economic recovery. Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and USNC Chairman Terence McCulley welcomed guests and kickstarted the event, which featured remarks from U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard and Nigerian Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment H.E. Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo.

Ambassador Leonard highlighted various ways the United States is working to combat COVID-19 in Nigeria, including collaborations with Nigerian partners to set up public polling on policy response strategies and local authorities to roll out digital analytics tools to track the spread of the virus. Honorable Minister Adebayo then focused his remarks on the Nigerian Government’s response to the pandemic, as well as his vision for U.S.-Nigeria relations going forward. He outlined the emergency stimulus bill, which seeks to provide temporary relief to both employers and employees, as well as social intervention programs providing direct relief for the most vulnerable. Going forward, Minister Adebayo stressed the importance of leveraging digital tools and technology to reinvigorate the economy, bolstering domestic production and employment.

Following these remarks, USNC Senior Advisor Aubrey Hruby moderated a conversation with several USNC Members, including Oando Group Chief Executive Wale Tinubu, Flour Mills of Nigeria Chairman and Honorary USNC Co-Chair John Coumantaros, and Access Bank Head of Communications Amaechi Okobi. Topics under discussion included the role of Nigeria’s private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 in the country’s relief efforts and the longstanding implications of the virus for Nigeria’s broader digitization.

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