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Message from the Chairman

December 2020

As 2020 draws to a close, I have been reflecting on what has been a productive but challenging year for the U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC), and for U.S.-Nigeria relations more broadly.

The year opened with U.S. President Donald Trump adding Nigeria and five other countries to his controversial travel ban, complicating bilateral relations and preventing Nigerian citizens from obtaining certain types of U.S. visas. Relations further soured in September, when Nigeria featured among the 59 countries for which the Trump administration proposed a new rule to limit student visas to just two years. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to revoke Trump’s travel bans on day one, but they could have lasting implications for international enrollment at U.S. tertiary institutions.

The coronavirus pandemic also tested the U.S.-Nigeria relationship, overwhelming health systems in both countries in a matter of weeks. The United States has long been the unofficial epicenter of the virus, accounting for about one quarter of global cases. Nigeria, too, has struggled hugely, recording stubbornly low testing rates in the early months of the pandemic. Nigeria’s economy is forecast to contract by about 4% this year, and the Central Bank has been forced to devalue the naira four times. Despite this gloomy economic news, I was gratified to see that the private sector – including many USNC members – have risen to the occasion, making substantial contributions to the Coalition Against COVID-19 and supporting the government’s health and economic relief efforts.

In September, we featured a few of these members in a virtual event with Vice President of Nigeria His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Focusing on healthtech, the Vice President highlighted the leading role the sector will continue to play in Nigeria’s relief efforts, lauding some of our members for helping the Nigerian government to deliver social programs to its people during the pandemic. Earlier in the year, we also hosted Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment His Excellency Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo for a members’ roundtable on U.S.-Nigeria relations during COVID-19, where the Honorable Minister stressed the importance of leveraging digital tools and technologies to reinvigorate Nigeria’s economy.

Protests against police brutality were another common thread in both countries throughout 2020, with #BlackLivesMatter protests gripping much of the world following George Floyd’s death in the United States and the #EndSARS movement similarly eliciting global support and sympathy. The remarkable ingenuity and determination of Nigerians young and old – especially women – to organize against police brutality in the face of tremendous adversity has been inspiring, and we look forward to supporting the principles of the movement from afar in 2021.

The USNC continued to be a go-to resource for information and analysis on the U.S.-Nigeria commercial relationship in 2020. Earlier this month, we hosted senior officials from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation for a members’ briefing on DFC’s investment priorities in Nigeria. Earlier in the year, we published a digital economy guide, offering an assessment of Nigeria’s expanding and entrepreneurial digital ecosystem and highlighting some of the most accomplished and exciting entrants into Nigeria’s digital space. We look forward to similar publications and briefings with key officials in the Biden administration in 2021.

I would like to express my appreciation to the USNC’s members for their support throughout the year. Special thanks also to USNC Honorary Co-Chairs John Coumantaros and Ambassador John Negroponte, Country Director Kelechi Ekugo, Senior Advisor Aubrey Hruby, and Director of Operations Jonathan Gass for their work throughout the year. With every good wish to you and yours this holiday season, I look forward to engaging with you in the new year.

Ambassador (ret.) Terence P. McCulley
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (2010-2013);
Chairman, U.S. Nigeria Council

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 Tuesday, December 1, the U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC) hosted a members’ briefing with executives from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and USNC Chairman Terence McCulley welcomed guests and kickstarted the event, which featured remarks from DFC Regional Director for Africa Vibhuti Jain and DFC Africa Investment Advisor for Anglophone West Africa Michelle Patrick-Akinrinade.

Jain underscored that the DFC views Nigeria as a priority market and hopes to double its investment portfolio in the country over the next three years. She also highlighted new developments within DFC, including the doubling of its capital base to $60 billion, new investment tools such as equity and local currency financing, and an increased focus on lower income countries. Jain concluded her remarks by outlining the DFC’s priority sectors for the upcoming year, which include energy, technology, healthcare, critical infrastructure, agriculture and food security, and women-owned and women-led ventures.

Patrick-Akinrinade highlighted recent progress made by the DFC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic downturn. This includes the Rapid Response Liquidity Facility, implemented to support investees impacted by COVID-19, and the Health and Prosperity Initiative, which seeks to support health-related investments in developing countries. She concluded her remarks by detailing the DFC’s 2021 priorities for the Anglophone West Africa region, which include diversifying the DFC’s client base and geographic exposure.

Following these remarks, USNC Senior Advisor Aubrey Hruby moderated a discussion between Jain, Patrick-Akinrinade, and USNC members participating in the discussion. Topics included the DFC’s application process and eligibility criteria, as well as the 2X Women’s Initiative, which seeks to catalyze private sector investment in global women’s economic empowerment.

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