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African economies are ‘ready to roar’

DEVELOPING: A Google ad in Lagos, Nigeria. The global firm is one of the many multinationals trying to break into the country’s booming economy

LABOUR MP Chuka Umunna says that the rapid growth of economies in Africa is an opportunity Britain would be a fool to miss out on.

The shadow business secretary led a trade mission to Nigeria and Ghana supported by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and UKTI North West last week.

Umunna told The Voice: “The African lions are ready to roar and it’s important that we [the UK] don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity.”

Visiting the major cities of Lagos and Accra, the trip aimed to give British small and medium sized businesses the opportunity to meet prospective clients and companies in both countries.

Currently, seven of the world’s ten fastest growing countries are based in Africa, with both Nigeria and Ghana proving to be a great hub of entrepreneurism.


The Streatham MP stated that the Government is rightly focussing on improving its presence in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), but should also capitalise on the trade opportunities in Africa.

While the UK dithers, other countries are making plans to gain the favour of African businesses and policymakers.

The Turkish Government sends at least one trade delegation a week to Ghana, while China has been Africa’s largest trade partner since 2008 – buying a third of the continent’s oil. Fellow growing economy, India is spending billions of pounds building business links. 

“Britain has a long-running link to the many countries in Africa such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Ghana. These nations are growing by about nine times the rate we are, and we should be looking to work intensely with them, as well as the BRICS nations,” the 34-year-old politician added.

“It’s a win-win for both sides. In the UK we would be able to boost our exports and GDP, while they want help building their infrastructure and skills.”

ON A MISSION: Labour MP Chuka Umunna

Since 2005, Nigeria’s GDP has almost doubled, but British exports to the country has failed to expand. Similarly, only 4 to 5 per cent of Ghana’s imports come from Britain, compared with 12 per cent from France.

Government figures show that in 2012, only five African countries featured in the top 50 list of markets for UK exported goods – South Africa (22), Nigeria (34), Senegal (40), Egypt (41) and Morocco (46).

Just under half of UK goods exported go to the European Union.

Umunna, whose late father was a Nigerian businessman, said he was amazed by some of the advances in the country since his last visit in 1992.

“It has massively changed since I came here 21 years ago. Back in the early Nineties, Nigeria was going nowhere but now we have great cities like Lagos, which has a greater GDP than Kenya.

“Also, there has been noticeable improvement in the country’s infrastructure and there isn’t the same grinding poverty. It is still there, but not as severe.”

Nigeria is one of the fastest growing countries in Africa and it is estimated to surpass South Africa as the continent’s largest economy by 2016.

From his experiences during the trip, Umunna pointed to several areas where UK businesses could have a great impact.

“The power grid in Nigeria is equivalent to that which serves Bradford and the nation is planning to spend up to £8bn in the next five years,” he explained.

“Our higher education institutions are hugely respected and Africa is looking for help in developing its educational systems. Culturally, Nollywood is the biggest film industry, after India’s Bollywood, but it is still looking to produce their films with a UK or US standard quality.”

On June 18, the Nigeria Finance and Investment Forum will take place in Abuja, the country’s capital city.

It will bring together influential policy-makers, entrepreneurs and industry experts and offers business opportunities for investors inside and outside of Nigeria.

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