TrustMedia (London)

7 January 2014

Africa: Growing Nigeria Must Trade More With Africa, Experts

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With Ghana, its Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) neighbour, there is evidence of growing investment in the banking sector with Nigeria's Zenith Bank, Access Bank, First Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA), owning stakes or subsidiaries in the country. But the rest is petty retail trading - dogged by the complications of border crossing in the region.

“We both [countries] just don't do business,” said a Ghanaian business journalist at a training workshop organized by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Addis Ababa recently.

Further afield in Eastern Africa, an emerging economic bloc that also includes Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, a few pockets of Nigerian investments can be found.

In Uganda, significant investments have been made in the financial sector, including IGI's 51% stake in National Insurance Company (NIC), a former state enterprise that is listed on the country's stock exchange, and its 49% stake in Global Trust Bank; and a UBA subsidiary. NIC itself owns 60% of GTB.

In southern African countries like Zimbabwe, Nigerians are mostly engaged in small-scale retail and the sale of Nollywood films - mostly pirated - on the streets.

By contrast, South Africa's footprint covers most countries on the continent, notably through telecom giant MTN, Standard Bank (as Stanbic) and retail giants like Shoprite.

Part of Nigeria's problem has been the failure to diversify from oil, which has seen other pillars of commerce weaken.

“It has “struggled to advance industrial complexity,” says Prof. Adrian Saville, Chief Investment Officer, Cannon Asset Managers and co-author of the Visa Africa Integration Index 2013 report.

“75.0% of Nigeria's exports in 2010 were made up of crude oil and 4.7% of refined petroleum, whilst 18.0% of imports in 2010 were made up of refined petroleum and another 1.0% were made up of petroleum coke and petroleum jelly,” he furthers.

According to him, “Nigeria [must start] increasingly refining and processing crude exports into more complex products - such as refined petroleum or petroleum jelly to replace imports with domestic production and, in a fuller state of economic development, start to sell refined products into export markets.”

The Visa report argues that Nigeria will be the main beneficiary; “Nigeria will benefit enormously from greater integration, as its growing market matures and modernises, and the demand for capital and a diversity of trade partners rises to address the needs of increasing industrialisation, a rising appetite for production and services and growing sophistication in lifestyles.”

This development will also inform the economic decisions of policy makers and business leaders in the country as it seeks to cement its position in Africa.

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