The Nigeria-France Trade and Investment Council was inaugurated on Thursday in Abuja, with a target to double trade flows between both countries from the current N1.049tn to about N2.098tn in four years.
The statement inaugurating the council was signed in the presence of President Goodluck Jonathan and his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, during the Nigeria-France Business Forum on the sidelines of the Nigerian Centenary celebrations in Abuja.
Apart from doubling trade, the council also has the mandate of increasing investment flows between both countries by 50 per cent in the next four years.
The council will be co-chaired by the Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria-France Chamber of Commerce and Chief Executive Officer, Leadway Assurance Company Limited, Mr. Oye Hassan-Odukale; and the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of PAI, Mr. Lionel Zinsou.
Jonathan and Hollande also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on a $170m power financing deal between the Ministry of Finance and the Agence Francaise Developpement; and another for the construction of a 13-megawatt solar power plant between the Osun State Government and Vergnet Groupe.
Jonathan encouraged French companies to invest in Nigeria in order to cement the ongoing favourable trade and investment relationship between both countries, noting that the people of France, under the leadership of Hollande, had shown an unprecedented level of commitment to Africa.
He said, “Nigeria has come of age economically and this is the time to invest. We have made significant progress in our political, social and economic development.
“I always say that Nigeria’s economic transformation will be the strongest legacy of our generation, which is why we have invited all you investors here today. A strong Nigerian economy will create wealth, improve living standards and ensure a stable political and social environment.
“This is why my focus, since this administration assumed office in 2011, has been to fundamentally restructure and diversify the Nigerian economy to ensure sustained growth and create jobs for our teeming youths.”
The President noted that this was Africa’s century, adding that over the last 100 years, the French people and businesses had always been engrained in the Nigerian story.
Hollande, who pledged increased investment by French companies in Nigeria, said his country was committed to boosting the strategic partnership between both countries.
He said, “We have set a goal of increasing our market share in Nigeria. Three of our companies contribute about 15,000 jobs in Nigeria but we have to invest more in the country.
“We must step up our efforts in the area of training by our companies for Nigerian employees and increase investment because Nigeria is a great country.”
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, said the Nigerian consumer market was worth over $100bn and growing fast as the purchasing power of the citizens continued to rise.
He said, “Trade between Nigeria and France grew from N550bn in 2008 to well over N1tn in 2012; one of the fastest growth rates we have seen with any one of our trading partners.
“For decades, France has believed in the potential of Nigeria; but more importantly, France has backed up its belief with real actions. This is because when the French believe, they invest.
“This is why the Nigeria-France business relationship is central to our economic agenda; and this is why we have organised this forum here today.”
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who gave an overview of the Nigerian economy during the event, said the government had put in place a lot of incentives to encourage investors.
She, however, regretted that while the economy was growing at about seven per cent per annum, the growth had not impacted significantly on job creation.
The minister urged French investors to invest in sectors that would not only guarantee maximum returns on investments, but also contribute significantly to creating what she described as modern jobs.
Source: Business News