(as prepared for delivery)
- Honorable Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment Okechukwu Enelamah
- Chief Famutimi, National President of the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce
- Matthew Obogbaimhe (oboe-buy-EEM-hey)– President and Chairman of the Kaduna Chapter of the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce, an active and valuable partner of our Embassy
- CD Glin, CEO and President of the U.S. African Development Foundation
- Government officials and business leaders
- Ladies and gentlemen
- All protocols duly observed
Good Morning. On behalf of the U.S. Mission to Nigeria, it is a sincere pleasure to welcome you to the 3rd annual NACC-Kaduna SME Conference and Exhibition. Over the next few days, I believe you will find that the people you meet here and the discussions and workshops in which you participate will help you uncover hidden opportunities and linkages in the agriculture value chain in Nigeria. As we all know, micro, small, and medium sized businesses can play a significant role in agricultural development, which not only benefits your business, but also positively contributes to the strength of the Nigerian economy.
Nigeria’s success is important to the United States. Our diplomatic presence here is one of America’s largest, most dynamic, and vitally important missions in all of Africa. With our Embassy here in Abuja and our Consulate General in Lagos, U.S. Mission Nigeria employs more than 250 Americans and nearly 800 Nigerians, a highly talented and dedicated team who are working together to build and enhance the relationship between our two countries – a relationship that both countries view as among their most important in the world.
The United States has been providing more than half a billion dollars in annual U.S. assistance to Nigeria in the areas of health and security, and that figure has grown significantly this year as we continue to respond to the crisis in the Northeast. But we are also focused on the critical issue of economic stability and growth. We recognize that our shared health and security goals depend on a prosperous economy that benefits all Nigerians.
Though we recognize that Nigeria exited its economic recession as of the second quarter of this year, we all share a concern that the economic recovery is weak and not creating enough jobs and economic opportunities for the people of Nigeria.
One of the questions we face each day is how do we work together – American business groups, Nigerian business groups, and our respective governments – to address the unique set of challenges facing the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that create much of the employment and economic growth of this country.
It is encouraging to see Minister Enelamah and the Government of Nigeria seeking ways to ease doing business in Nigeria. Such efforts will give businesses and investors more confidence to grow their investments here. The largest quantum of new investment is far more likely to come from investors that are already in Nigeria than from new investors.
Another important way to boost investor confidence is to more fully embrace an open market economy. Embrace opportunities to participate in global trade and investment markets and resist monetary and trade protections that create opportunities for corruption. Allow markets to set prices for everything from foreign currency to energy, rather than using scarce government resources to try to control those markets. An open economy builds competitiveness, while protections reduce effectiveness. And from what I’ve seen during my time in Nigeria, there’s no question that Nigerians – and Nigeria as a whole – can compete. U.S. firms continue to show interest in Nigeria across multiple sectors, and that interest will likely increase as more open and transparent trade and foreign exchange regimes provide the predictability those investors need.
We are all paying close attention to current economic indicators because they highlight the capacity of the Nigerian economy to create jobs for the roughly five million young people who enter the job market every year. Large corporations at best can only absorb a small fraction of these new job seekers. SMEs provide the best opportunity we have for creating productive jobs for these young people.
This is why your role is so important in further adding value in the agriculture sector that will deliver a more diverse economy, but also enhance Nigeria’s food security. I congratulate the Kaduna chapter of the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce for focusing attention on the needs and opportunities of Nigeria’s SMEs, especially in the agriculture sector. There are few things that can be done to address Nigeria’s economy more effectively than improving the conditions of SMEs.
I also want to highlight that our U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Foreign Commercial Service, and Foreign Agricultural Service is each represented at this conference and can share how their programs work and how you may be able to participate. Likewise, we welcome the U.S. African Development Foundation’s presence at this year’s conference and Mr. C.D. Glin will in a few minutes share more about the contributions his office is making in Nigeria.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the Kaduna Chapter of the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce plays an active role in bringing delegations from northern Nigeria to trade and industry shows in the United States. Their tireless work to develop and deepen the commercial ties between the United States and Nigeria are exemplary. Matthew, I commend you and your organization in the incredible impact you are making.
Minister Enelamah, members of the Chamber of Commerce, other dignitaries, thank you for this opportunity to address you, and thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of Nigeria and the U.S.-Nigeria relationship.