Special COVID-19 Message from the Chairman

WASHINGTON, DC—The coronavirus pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to public health systems across the world as well as to the global economy. The United States has quickly become the unofficial epicenter of the virus, with more confirmed cases than any other country, and business, travel and trade between the United States and Nigeria is coming to a screeching halt. While Nigeria has not yet experienced rates of infection seen elsewhere in the world, the longer-term political and economic effects of the outbreak will have a significant and deleterious impact on the country’s economy.

Nigeria is battling the double burden of a sudden and dramatic drop in oil prices and a coronavirus-induced global economic slowdown. Nigeria’s top trading partners – China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union – are among the worst affected by the novel virus. In an effort to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on the economy, President Buhari approved a N10 billion grant to fight the outbreak in Lagos State and a N5 billion grant to support the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control. The Central Bank of Nigeria has introduced a stimulus package to help households and small businesses hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and adjusted the official currency rate by 15 percent.

However, the government has not been alone. I am proud to note that the private sector, including several US-Nigeria Council (USNC) members, have risen to the occasion, putting significant resources behind Nigeria’s COVID-19 relief effort. Here are just a few examples:

  • As part of the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CA COVID), USNC Founding Members Aliko Dangote, Zenith Bank’s Jim Ovia and Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank have all contributed upwards of N1 billion (about $2.7 million) each to support the government in curtailing the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraging other private sector leaders to do the same.
  • The CA COVID initiative will help to provide treatment and isolation centers across Africa’s most populous nation as it braces for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • John Coumantaros, Honorary Co-Chair of the Council, and Flour Mills of Nigeria have contributed N1 billion to the CA COVID Fund. The company has also provided an additional N1 billion in medical and food aid.
  • Wale Tinubu from Oando and ABC Orjiako of Seplat Patroleum Development Company have joined thirty-two other oil companies to pledge $30 million to the country’s COVID-19 relief effort.

Amid much concern surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to see the Nigerian business community stepping up and utilizing their assets and funds for social good. Coronavirus presents an unprecedented challenge for the United States and Nigeria, and the business community will be central to the relief effort. Thank you, USNC members, we applaud your continued efforts to help Nigeria navigate this historic global crisis. We also join with the sentiments expressed by the leaders of the United States and Nigeria, and offer our thanks to all our heroic health care workers and other essential staff on the frontline of the response for their dedication and commitment.

Ambassador (ret.) Terence P. McCulley
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (2010-2013);
Chairman U.S. Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade, and Investment

Fast-Tracking Nigeria’s Digital Economy Through U.S.-Nigerian Collaboration (December 2019)

LAGOS—The U.S. Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade, and Investment (USNC) convened a high-level business dinner on December 12, 2019 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.

To Grow Tech Space, U.S. Nigeria Council Links Corporates and Digital Innovators (September 2019)

NEW YORK CITY—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.

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U.S. Nigeria Council Comments on Dispute Between Oando PLC and the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission

June 19, 2019 | Washington, D.C.

The U.S. 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.

U.S. Nigeria Council Dinner in Washington DC Focuses on the Future (April 2019)

WASHINGTON DC – The U.S. Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade and Investment (USNC), a business organization dedicated to deepening commercial ties between the U.S. and Nigeria and creating a platform for leading Nigerian entrepreneurs, hosted its annual executive spring dinner in Washington D.C. on Thursday, April 11. The Council’s first event since the Nigerian elections was held on the margins of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings and gathered over sixty leading Nigerian and American business executives and high-level public officials.
Hosted by Chairman Ambassador Terence McCulley and Co-Chair John Coumantaros of Flour Mills of Nigeria, the Council’s dinner discussion featured remarks by the Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele and the Governor of Edo State Godwin Obaseki. Both emphasized the positive economic developments taking place in Nigeria and encouraged investors to take a new look at Nigeria. Central Bank Governor Emefiele noted that this quarter now marks “seven quarters of sustained economic recovery and growth in Nigeria.”

Emblematic of that growth, several emerging Nigerian entrepreneurs spoke at the dinner highlighting their companies’ growth and innovation including Emmanuel Okeleji, founder of SeamlessHR, Sam Immanuel, Founder of Semicolon and Kendall Ananyi, Founder of Tizeti (wifi.com). Emmanual Okeleji said “partnering with leading Nigerian and US companies can greatly accelerate our growth and thus job creation in Nigeria.”

From the U.S. government, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria W. Stuart Symington and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for West Africa and Security Affairs Whitney Baird also attended the event. Ambassador Symington echoed the optimism for Nigeria’s progress. USNC Chairman Ambassador McCulley remarked, “The Council remains the only business group solely focused on Nigeria, and we are pleased to serve as a convener of U.S. and Nigerian entrepreneurs in support of this important bilateral relationship.”

USNC members present included Dr. ABC Orjiako of Seplat; Mamadou Beye of Chevron; Ambassador John Negroponte of McLarty Associates, and a representative from Ventures Platform. Other notable attendees included Kayode Pitan, CEO of Bank of Industry of Nigeria, Betrand Badre, Former Managing Director of the World Bank, Eme Essien, IFC Country Manager for Nigeria; and executives from Andela, Nithio, American Tower Corporation, and Lateral Capital.

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U.S. Nigeria Council Champions Partnerships in Tech and Innovation | New York City (September 2018)

NEW YORK CITY – The US Nigeria Council (USNC), a business organization dedicated to deepening commercial ties between the US and Nigeria, hosted a roundtable breakfast in New York City on Tuesday, September 25th. The event took place on the margins of the 73rd UN General Assembly and gathered over forty-five leading Nigerian and American business executives and high-level public officials. Further to USNC’s mission to promote bilateral business partnership and growth, the breakfast focused on entrepreneurial investment in the technology and innovation ecosystem.

Hosted by Chairman Ambassador Terence McCulley, Co-Chair John Coumantaros of Flour Mills of Nigeria, and Executive Director Eliot Pence, the Council’s breakfast served as a forum for connecting investors with potential investees to mobilize capital for Nigerian start-ups and companies. The event brought together a range of ecosystem players to discuss innovation and entrepreneurial partnerships in technology. Executive Director Eliot Pence commented on the role of USNC in bringing together influential entrepreneurs to combat market challenges, stating “Capital is one barrier, market access is another. USNC bridges that gap.”

HM Okey Enelamah, Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, attended the event and addressed the crowd about the crucial need to leverage technology to address local challenges as well as efforts by the Nigerian government to strengthen the enabling environment for businesses to operate. HM Enelamah commended the Council for its work, stating “Nigeria stands to benefit from your effort.” He also spoke to the power of partnership and the exceptional stature of the “serial entrepreneur” members of USNC, adding “if you are looking for courage in business, it’s found in this room.”

The commitment of USNC members was represented by the participation of Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank PLC; Wale Tinubu of Oando; Kola Aina of Ventures Platform; Tunde Folawiyo of Yinka Folawiyo Group; Ambassador John Negroponte of McLarty Associates; Christina Sass of Andela; Femi Akinware of Exchange Telecommunications Ltd; and Mamadou Beye of Chevron. Throughout the breakfast, members from various sectors shared updates, such as Ventures Platform’s remarks on its recently announced Corporate Leaders Fund that aims to increase market access by investing in start-ups. Other notable attendees included Kayode Pitan, CEO of Bank of Industry of Nigeria; Yewande Sadiku, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission; Nigerian NBA star Festus Ezeli and executives from Renaissance Capital, Lateral Capital, Bechtel International Inc., Zephyr Management, and Lori Systems.

U.S. Nigeria Council Hosts Spring Reception and Dinner in Washington | Washington, DC (April, 2018)

 

Washington DC, April 19, 2018 — The US Nigeria Council (USNC), a business organization dedicated to deepening commercial ties between the US and Nigeria, held its annual Spring reception and members-dinner on the margin of the World Bank-IMF meetings in Washington DC. As part of the event, the Council introduced its new chairman, Terence McCulley, former US Ambassador to Nigeria. The Council reception had over 100 US and Nigerian senior executives in attendance.  Nigerian Ambassador Sylvanus Nsofor participated in the reception and pledged embassy support for USNC efforts.

In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of the Council, Eliot Pence, said that the Council was founded to act as a convener, clearinghouse and catalyst for business and investment opportunities for US and Nigerian firms. He added that the reception and dinner was the fourth of its kind following successful dinners and receptions in Washington DC, New York and Lagos since its inception in 2016.

Speaking at the reception, Council Chairman, Ambassador McCulley, said that the US Nigeria Council “is the only group focused solely on facilitating US-Nigerian joint ventures and partnerships, and it has succeeded in meeting its goals, with deals emerging from every reception and dinner it has hosted.” He added that council is currently working with the Nigerian Ministry of Trade and Investment on industrialization efforts and have been helping one of its members, Zipline, advance its innovative project in Nigeria to deliver blood and essential medication via drones.

The reception was immediately followed by a business dinner targeted at driving deals and fostering stronger relationships between businesses. The Co-Chair of the council and Chairman of Flour Mills Nigeria, John Coumantaros, appreciated the presence of senior business executives at the dinner. He noted that the US Nigeria Council is laser-focused on deepening the US-Nigeria commercial partnerships at a critical time.

“At these dinners, we seek to uncover areas of shared interest and pave the way toward joint ventures, partnerships and diversified investments. USNC has supported entrepreneurs in Nigeria to grow. Tomato Jos, for example, has received additional investment that enabled the company to invest in irrigation, additional land and access the full range of support and expertise from agribusinesses like Flour Mills of Nigeria, but also other member companies” added John Coumantaros.

In his closing remarks, Ambassador McCulley noted that in five years, the Council can look back and say that the partnerships and relationships formed between U.S. and Nigerian members significantly and measurably contributed to Nigeria’s development, economic diversification, and job creation. He acknowledged founding members: Dangote Group, Oando, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, Chevron and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and the young entrepreneurs who attended the reception and dinner.

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U.S. Nigeria Council Appoints Ambassador Terence McCulley as Chairman

Washington DC, January 16, 2018 — The United States Nigeria Council (USNC), a business organization dedicated to deepening commercial ties between the US and Nigeria, announced the appointment of Ambassador Terence McCulley as its new Chairman. Ambassador McCulley served as US ambassador to Nigeria from 2010 to 2013.

The US-Nigeria Council, launched in 2016, acts as a convener, clearinghouse and catalyst for business and investment opportunities for US and Nigerian firms. From its offices in Washington, DC and Lagos, USNC develops targeted partnerships between members with an aim to catalyze a new wave of diversified investment and inclusive growth. In addition to its continued work in agricultural supply chain development, the Council will focus on the ICT sector in 2018.

Speaking on the appointment of Ambassador McCulley, Eliot Pence, the Executive Director of USNC said, “Ambassador McCulley has a proven track record in promoting businesses and diplomatic relations between the two countries. His leadership and experience will play a huge role as we forge a backbone of strong joint ventures between companies, funds and entrepreneurs.”

Ambassador McCulley has a distinguished diplomatic career in Africa. In addition to his posting in Nigeria, McCulley served as the US Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire from 2013 to 2016 and Mali from 2005 to 2008. Reacting to his appointment, Ambassador McCulley said, “As a former Ambassador to Nigeria, I understand the importance of the US-Nigeria Council in facilitating meaningful partnerships between Nigerian and American companies.” He added that “Nigeria is an indispensable destination for US investment; the country represents the largest market in Africa with over 180 million consumers and it is attracting an increasing number of US corporations. USNC is doing important work in focusing on deal execution and I am excited to be a part of the team.”

The Co-Chair of the council and Chairman of Flour Mills Nigeria, John Coumantaros, welcomed the appointment of Ambassador McCulley: “We are honored to have Ambassador McCulley as a leader in USNC efforts. He deeply understands the Nigerian operational context and has the diplomatic skills needed to strengthen commercial relationships between US and Nigerian companies.” Mr. Uche Orji, CEO of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and Co-chair of the USNC, echoed the sentiment, saying “Ambassador McCulley is a recognized leader who blends diplomatic skills with a business acumen.”

U.S. Nigeria Council Deal Dinner | New York, New York (September 2017)


The US Nigeria Council (USNC) convened a dinner with the top US investors with interest in Nigeria in New York on Wednesday, 20th of September 2017 on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

The dinner, co-hosted by John Coumantaros, Chairman of Flour Mills Nigeria Plc, Uche Orji, Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, and Ambassador John Negroponte, Vice-Chairman of McLarty Associates, gathered leaders of Nigerian and American businesses. Council members and dinner participants focused on the need to create a competitive ICT cluster that will further develop the digital economy in Nigeria.

US businesses attending the dinner included Google, Walmart, IBM, Tetra Tech, and American Tower. Among the leading investors at the event were Citi, Denham Capital, Fairfax Africa, CRE Ventures, Development Partners International, Atlas Mara and Zephyr Management.

The commitment of Nigerian businesses to the USNC was demonstrated by the active participation of Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank, Adewale Tinubu of Oando, Tunde Folawiyo of Yinka Folawiyo Group, Abdulrazaq Isa of Waltersmith, Kola Karim of Shoreline Energy, and Oscar Onyema of the Nigeria Stock Exchange. The dinner welcomed a diverse group of entrepreneurs who have started companies in technology, agribusiness, e-commerce and education, including Cars45, Royal Power, GidiMobile, Flutterwave, RxAll, and Lidya.

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U.S. Nigeria Council Breakfast Briefing | Lagos, Nigeria (July 2017)


Convening leading Nigerian and American businesses, the U.S. Nigeria Council held an intimate breakfast briefing and discussion in Lagos in July 2017.

Hosted by Eliot Pence, Executive Director of USNC, and Aubrey Hruby, Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, the event was attended by the leadership of Nigeria’s largest companies and major US investors. Council members received an exclusive briefing by a top level official from the US Embassy on the state of US-Nigeria Commercial Dialogue.

US and Nigerian business commitments were representative through the active participation of high level delegations, including from Dangote, Oando, Zenith Capital, Google, Oracle, Accenture, Dow, Caryle, KPMG, Deloitte, Monsanto, LASB, Dufil, 7UP, ANAP Jets, Westron Group, Verod, Greenwish Partners, and Nigerian government officials.

The Council’s breakfast was also attended by young entrepreneurs who have started companies in technology, agribusiness, e-commerce and education, such as Tomato Jos and Andela.

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U.S. Nigeria Council Launch Dinner | Lagos, Nigeria (March 2017)


Convening leading Nigerian and American businesses, the U.S. Nigeria Council held its Nigerian launch in Lagos in March 2017.

Hosted by John Coumantaros, Chairman of Flour Mills Nigeria Plc (FMN) and Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) CEO, Uche Orji, the launch dinner was attended by the US Ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the US Counsel General John Bray and the leadership of Nigeria’s largest companies and major US investors.

The Nigerian business commitment to USNC was represented by the active participation of Alhaji Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, Oba Oteduko of Honeywell Group, Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe of Access Bank Plc, Akinsowon Dawodu of Citibank Nigeria, Adewale Tinubu of Oando, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede of WAPIC, and Abdulsamad Rabiu of BUA Group amongst others. The Dow Chemical Company, Chevron, UPS, Procter&Gamble, ExxonMobil and Uber were some of the US businesses that sent senior delegations. The Council also includes young entrepreneurs who have started companies in technology, agribusiness, e-commerce and education, including Tomato Jos, Mall for Africa and Andela.

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US Nigeria Council Launch Event | Washington, DC (April 2016)


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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