Nigeria, France seal pact on trade, SME development

France and Nigeria hope the collaboration would create the environment for improved economic and trade ties for mutual benefits.

Nigeria and France, on Monday, signed an agreement aimed at facilitating the collaboration between Nigeria’s Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency and its counterpart in France, Banque Publique d’Investissement (BPI France) to promote the development of small and medium scale enterprises (SME) in the country.

The two countries also agreed to establish the Franco-Nigeria Trade and Investment Council as part of the process of driving the growth of their economies through mutual cooperation.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, signed the agreement on behalf of Nigeria, while the French Minister of Foreign Trade, Nicole Bricq, signed on before of France to establish the investment council.

Mr. Aganga in his speech said the Council, which would be driven by the private sector, would identify areas of investment across all sectors of the Nigerian economy and report the progress made on quarterly basis.

“We have signed the agreement today for the setting up of the Franco-Nigerian Trade and Investment Council. This will be made up of the private sector that will be the key drivers, but sponsored by the two ministers, who will create the environment for them to thrive,” Mr. Aganga said.

“We will identify opportunities and areas for investment across all sectors of the economy and then issue a report on a quarterly basis on the progress that has been made so that it will be action-oriented and result-oriented. The FNTIC will be working with the Chambers of Commerce and trade associations, but they will be the key drivers of major decisions that will be made,” he added.

The minister noted that the trade relationship between the two countries had increased significantly over the years, pointing out that Nigeria and France were committed to creating the enabling environment for improved economic and trade ties for mutual benefits to the two countries.

“The trade relations between Nigeria and France dates back to about the 18th Century. Since then, it has grown significantly over the years from about N550billion in 2008 to about N1trillion in 2012. In fact, more than half of our automobile components are imported from France and we have quite a number of French companies in Nigeria operating. This shows that the two countries have long standing economic relationship,” the minister said.

While the two ministers have to do things in common to drive the programmes of the Council, Mr. Aganga said they have the responsibility of identifying areas of opportunities in order to create the enabling environment that would support businesses, to increase the level of trade and investment between the two countries.

He said though a similar memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by the two governments in 2009, the momentum was not felt afterwards, adding that the need to sustain that momentum informed the creation of the Franco-Nigeria Trade and Investment Council.

“This collaboration aims to create a working group to organize a skill transfer from Bpifrance to SMEDAN, and share Bpifrance model and best practices learned from a long history of SME growth support,” he said, adding that the working group could share information on the whole scope of intervention of Bpifrance, financing innovations (through state and regions budget allocations) in the form of subsidies and repayable advances.

Aganaga said the working group would share the methods and technical constraints to deliver the aids for the best economic efficiency.

The French Minister of Foreign Trade, Mrs. Nicole Bricq, said the agreement and the establishment of the investment council were indicative of Nigeria’s strategic economic importance to France, adding that the setting up of the FNTIC was part of France’s efforts towards facilitating more Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria.

“For us, Nigeria is a very strategic and must-have partner. So, given the great importance of Nigeria as a regional economic engine, we want to increase our trade and investment activities in Nigeria by ensuring that more French companies invest in Nigeria,” Mrs. Bricq said.

“We want to increase the number of French companies that will invest in Nigeria by 50 per cent within the next few years. We want to assure Nigerians that France is ready and willing to put its financial resources behind this initiative to make it work,” she added.

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