Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Ade Adefuye
By Shaka Momodu
Nigeria has been described as a region of growing opportunity and promise by the United States.
US Department of State Director of West African Affairs, Ambassador Eunice Reddick, made this declaration in her keynote address to Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation of the America conference at the Nigerian Embassy premises in Washington DC.
She revealed that Nigeria’s bilateral trade with the U S in 2011 stood at $38.5 billion up by nearly 12 per cent from 2010.
US exports to Nigeria, primarily wheat, vehicles and refined petroleum products valued at 4.8 billion dollars in 2011, an 18 per cent increase from 2010 figure.
She declared that America believes that Nigeria can be the
world’s next major economic success story, “that is why according to her, the United States is committed to helping Nigeria build institutions, remove constraints to trade and investment through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, expand opportunities for Nigeria to effectively access its neighbour’s markets and diversify its economy beyond a narrow reliance on natural resources.
“We are interested in Nigeria’s success because we recognise Nigeria as a strategic centre of gravity. If we can help Nigeria chart a secure, prosperous, and democratic course, then Nigeria’s success can be Africa’s success as well,” he said.
According to Reddick, that’s what Secretary Clinton envisioned when she visited Nigeria earlier this month during which she outlined President Barack Obama’s strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa, which focuses on strengthening democratic institution, fostering broad based economic growth through trade and investment, and advancing peace and security.
Stating that these intertwined goals formed the basis of US engagement with the Nigerian government which is bolstered by the US-Nigerian Binational Commission. And since its inception in April 2010, the Bi-national Commission has grown into a forum of frank high-level conversations in which we have seen substantial reforms and mutually reinforcing initiatives implemented in Nigeria. We just completed the highest level Bi-national Commission gathering in June in which four of the five working groups – Good Governance, Integrity, and Transparency, Energy and Investment, Food Security and Agriculture and Security Cooperation-met simultaneously.”
Redddick listed the key outcomes of the Bi-national Commission so far as successful integration of civil society into the electoral process prior to 2011 elections, sustained and elevated dialogue with energy sector officials on energy policy, reform to increase investment, and agreement to support the development of a civil affairs training centre in the coming year.
“We are also working to strengthen Nigeria’s agricultural sector, which employs nearly 70per cent of the country’s population by encouraging improvements to infrastructure that would facilitate agricultural growth, liberalising trade policies to foster regional trade reforming the customs system to bring it in line with global best practices and encouraging policy reforms to enable private investment in agriculture.”
Also speaking, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Ade Adefuye, who was represented by Mrs. Vivian Okeke of the Nigerian Embassy, stated that the economic blueprint of Nigeria’s economy was Vision 20,2020, which aimed to make Nigeria one of the top 20 largest world economies by the year 2020, with a GDP of USD $900 billion per capital, and to attract USD $130 billion private capital over the next 10 years.
“This is the basis for the government’s transformation agenda, which is tailored to achieve vision 20,2020,” he said.
Reddick further revealed that the United States was committed to assisting Nigeria develop a more balanced security strategy to counter Boko Haram, which takes into account the legitimate social, political and economic grievances of the northern population.
“Our security engagement, however, cannot be separated from good governance – one of President Obama’s top priorities in Africa. Progress in this area is crucial to the success of ongoing efforts against Boko Haram, which is drawn to locations where they can take advantage of political and economic vulnerabilities to safeguard their operations and attract recruits,” she said.
She added that economic development also requires tearing down the walls “that stand in the way of progress - corruption, the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business, the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect.”
Reddick said “reforming government standards remains a priority for us and we’ll continue to provide training, know-how, and information to strong institutions such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Through the Bi-national Commission we are with EFCC Chairman to speed up the processing of corruption cases, enhance oversight, and establish a robust internal affairs.”
The goals of the transformation agenda, according to him, are to have strong, inclusive non-inflationary growth, to generate employment and alleviate poverty and to achieve value reorientation.
The focus areas are on good governance, infrastructure and human capital development with the expected outcome of the jobs creation, better resource management, elimination of corruption and sustained economic development.
He stated that the World Bank’s Doing Business Index ranks Nigeria as 133th out of 183 countries on the basis of the constraints encountered in starting a business, dealing with construction permits and registration of property and enforcement of contracts.
It also identified differences in state regulations and in the enforcement of national regulations that can enhance or constrain local business activity.
He declared that the Federal Government and the states have been actively reforming and is determined to move Nigeria’s ranking to the 10th position.
“To this end the government has setup transparent legal and regulatory framework which allows business enterprises to be registered with Corporate Affairs Commission within 24 hours,” he said.