Come 2020, Nigeria would have received €1.46 billion from the European Union (EU) in form of grants for critical projects in some key sectors of the economy starting from 2008.
Of this amount, the country had already received €750 million between 2008 and 2013, while the next phase of the grant estimated at €712 million, which started since 2014, will end in 2020, averaging about €100 million per year.
The EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States, Michel Arrion, said although an average grant of €100 million yearly to a country with more than $400 billion Gross Domestic Product is small, it is targeted at key issues that would stall wealth and job creating investments.
Addressing newsmen on forthcoming fifth EU-Nigeria business forum, in Lagos, he said that as a trade partner and major development agency to the country, the forum would now be more practical in dealing with issues about trade, energy, financing of privatised assets, diversification and support for agriculture and its value chain.
Meanwhile, in an exclusive chat with The Guardian, the envoy said he never believed in Nigeria’s quest for exportation of food items to Europe, when it has a whole lot of market within its reach.
Citing the country’s population and neighbouring African countries, which stand as a pool of growth opportunities, he said that Nigeria should focus on satisfying the local market as a way to gain competitive strength and comparative advantage.
“Nigeria has comparative advantage in agriculture. But it is still on subsistence level. There are various untapped opportunities that can turn the sector into full commercial.
“For instance, the textile business. The country has land to grow the cotton. It has the manpower and skill. there are various line of products that can be on the offer. There is the population. Besides, there are value chains. We believe small businesses have opportunities too.
“The EU is the top destination for oil and non-oil exports from Nigeria. In 2014 alone, Nigeria’s trade with EU stood at €39 billion, representing 31 per cent of Nigeria’s total trade.
EU investment stock in Nigeria grew from €23.8 billion in 2013 to €25.3 billion in 2014. However, with the fall in oil prices, EU-Nigeria trade declined by 26.7 per cent to €29 billion in 2015. Nigerian exports to EU declined by 35 per cent, while imports declined by seven per cent over the period,” he said.
He said that in efforts to reverse the trend, the forum billed for next week will seek to strengthen the business relations through identification of opportunities in the global textile value chain.
It will expose Nigerian SMEs to opportunities in the EU market through the platform of the Enterprise Europe Network and explore the financing options available for funding of the power sector and diversifying the energy mix in the country.