Lagos State Governor outlines efforts to attract investment to spur post-pandemic economic revival (April 2021)
WASHINGTON, DC—On Wednesday, April 21, the U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC) hosted a virtual roundtable with Executive Governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu and U.S. Consul General Claire Pierangelo to discuss efforts to attract investment to drive economic revival amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and USNC Chairman Terence McCulley welcomed guests, while USNC Founding Member John Coumantaros introduced the keynote speakers. USNC Honorary Co-Chair Ambassador John Negroponte closed the event with a vote of thanks to the distinguished guests.
CG Pierangelo noted the close cooperation the United States, Lagos State, and Nigeria more broadly continue to enjoy, highlighting healthcare – and the recently opened Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre & Specialist Hospital – as one such example. As the most populous state and the country’s biggest economic hub, she underscored investment needs in Lagos State to combat COVID-19-induced challenges nationwide. To help with this, the Consul General highlighted several ongoing U.S. initiatives aimed at driving investment, including U.S. Trade and Development Agency-backed energy projects to support widespread electricity access throughout Nigeria, as well as frequent investment conferences and export workshops.
Governor Sanwo-Olu underscored the centrality of Lagos State to Nigeria’s broader economic revival. Accounting for more than 10% of the country’s population, the Governor spoke of Lagos State’s obligation to the rest of Nigeria to lead health and economic recovery efforts. Governor Sanwo-Olu noted ongoing efforts to advance digitization by providing about 3,000 miles of metropolitan fiber optic cables to strengthen broadband penetration across Lagos State. He also discussed efforts to enhance health infrastructure, including ongoing work to better prepare for future pandemics, invest in mental health facilities, and scale up technology to digitize patient records.
Following these remarks, USNC Senior Advisor Aubrey Hruby moderated a discussion between CG Pierangelo, Governor Sanwo-Olu, and USNC members participating in the discussion. Topics included Lagos State’s “green recovery” plans, available support for start-ups during the pandemic, as well as preparations for the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
If you would like to learn more about the USNC and our future programming, please email USNC Director of Operations Jonny Gass at email@example.com.
InfraCorp Set to Attract Global Investors to Nigerian Infrastructure (March 2021)
WASHINGTON, DC—On Tuesday, March 23, the USNC, in collaboration with the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, hosted a panel on investing in infrastructure in Nigeria, highlighting the new and innovative Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria (InfraCorp). The event convened InfraCorp’s funding partners: the Central Bank of Nigeria, represented by Governor Godwin Emefiele and Special Advisor to the Governor on Financial Markets Emmanuel Ukeje; the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), represented by Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Uche Orji; and the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), represented by President and Chief Executive Officer Samaila Zubairu. USNC Senior Advisor Aubrey Hruby provided moderation.
In her opening comments, Africa Center Senior Fellow Amb. Rama Yade framed the event in terms of African agency and innovation in driving economic recovery after COVID-19. Amb. Terence McCulley added, as USNC Chairman, that creativity is needed to maintain momentum on US-Nigeria commercial exchanges, and that InfraCorp provides a welcome opportunity to do just that.
In the moderated discussion, the speakers laid out the key points of InfraCorp and made the case for its appeal to global investors.
Structure: InfraCorp will be managed by an independent fund manager that will mobilize additional local and global capital in a long-term fund structure. The target for the fund will be $37 billion, and InfraCorp will have the capacity to raise in both naira and dollars.
Timeline: In the search for an asset manager, the request for proposals process will conclude next week, says Zubairu, with interviews by an expert committee leading to the hire of a fund manager by mid-April. The three funding partners have provided an initial capital of $2.4 billion as a first close, and are otherwise “set to go,” in Zubairu’s words. InfraCorp will start making investments immediately, says Orji, seeking commitments “asset by asset and project by project.”
Priorities: InfraCorp will focus on energy, transportation and logistics, telecommunications, and social infrastructure. Opportunities to support green growth are also available, as Nigeria offers avenues for solar, hydro, and gas, as well as supporting oil companies in their efforts to go green.
Impact: For Emefiele, the core of InfraCorp is to tackle Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit and reduce the costs of doing business. InfraCorp is indicative of a maturation of the Nigerian financial market according to Orji. By supporting project development, financing infrastructure, and mobilizing private capital, InfraCorp will help to combat issues of underemployment and inefficiency across sectors, says Zubairu.
Shifting perceptions: According to Orji, the call for applications for the asset manager position was met with initial skepticism but the response has evolved into real inquiry. He also stressed that once firms have invested in Nigeria, he has rarely seen them leave. As such, he is confident that after several transactions, investor interest will only grow. He further highlighted investor interest by raising the oversubscription of an NSIA project with Moroccan fertilizer giant OCP.
For Orji, risk perception is largely a lack of understanding, not a lack of genuine opportunity or returns. Returns are dependent on the type of infrastructure, agree Orji and Zubairu, but in the opinion of the AFC head, “Nigeria has performed very well in providing returns relative to risk.”
If you would like to learn more about the USNC and our future programming, please email USNC Director of Operations Jonny Gass at firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Africa Trade and Investment Hub outlines priorities in Nigeria
WASHINGTON, DC—On Thursday, February 18, the U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC) hosted an event with the US Government’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, a USAID-funded trade and investment facilitation activity that works to advance private sector competitiveness in West Africa by partnering with companies to generate new capital investment in key sectors. Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and USNC Chairman Terence McCulley welcomed guests and kickstarted the event, which featured remarks from Trade Hub Deputy Chief of Party Karl Littlejohn.
Littlejohn began with an overview of the Trade Hub, outlining its key priorities: (1) increasing private investment; (2) improving U.S. trade with West Africa; and (3) creating jobs, with at least 50% dedicated to women. He underscored Nigeria’s importance to the Trade Hub, with half of its $96 million co-investment fund dedicated to the market. Littlejohn explained that the Trade Hub has an agribusiness focus in Nigeria, prioritizing partnerships in five value chains (maize, rice, soy, cowpea, and aquaculture) across seven states (Benue, Niger, Kaduna, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Delta, and Cross River). However, projects that impact logistics, energy, or support value chains more broadly could also be considered. Research and Development is another focus area, with the Trade Hub providing grants in areas such as agricultural innovation and value chain development to increase yields.
Following these remarks, USNC Senior Advisor Aubrey Hruby moderated a discussion between Littlejohn and USNC members participating in the discussion. Topics included eligibility criteria for Trade Hub grants, tools used to de-risk investment opportunities, and digital farming. The event was attended by C-level executives from Nigerian companies spanning the agriculture, financial services, oil and gas, and consumer goods industries.
This event was the second in a series of USNC briefings on U.S. Government programs and initiatives that work to advance two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa. If you would like to learn more about the USNC and our future programming, please email USNC Director of Operations Jonny Gass at email@example.com.
DFC executives outline priority sectors for investment in Nigeria
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 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.
This event was the first in a series of USNC briefings on U.S. Government programs and initiatives that work to advance two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa. If you would like to learn more about the USNC and our future programming, please email USNC Director of Operations Jonny Gass at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice President Osinbajo stresses the importance of health tech to drive Nigeria’s COVID-19 response (September 2020)
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.
Nigeria’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment Stresses Importance of Digital Technology in COVID-19 Relief Efforts (June 2020)
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.
Special COVID-19 Message from the Chairman (April 2020)
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.