Deputy Chief of Mission Kathleen FitzGibbon’s Remarks at the 2019 SME Conference – Abuja

Distinguished guests and partners in development, I am pleased to join you at the 2019 Small and Medium Enterprise Conference, hosted by the Kaduna State chapter of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce.  We at the U.S. Mission in Nigeria are happy to partner with you again on this annual event.

The topic of this year’s conference, “Agribusiness as a Catalyst for Economic Growth,” is both timely and important.  I am particularly happy to be a part of efforts to promote agricultural sector development. I come from upstate New York, where family farming is a way of life. It has evolved overtime in ways that show me that meetings like this can plant the seeds of future success. Nigeria is well known internationally for its vibrant, diverse, and entrepreneurial business culture.  This is especially evident in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.  In my travels across Nigeria, I have seen with my own eyes the opportunities that agriculture promises for economic growth.  Many of the country’s most innovative and enterprising business people are here today to discuss their experiences of transforming Nigeria’s agricultural sector.  I look forward to hearing how their best practices can be shared with partners throughout the agricultural value chain to further bolster Nigeria’s economic growth.

One of our top priorities in Nigeria is to support that growth by increasing bilateral trade and investment through Prosper Africa and other U.S. government initiatives.  We support Nigeria’s push to diversify its economy away from oil and to create jobs at a rate that outpaces population growth.  Agriculture can be the sector that creates those jobs for young Nigerians while forging new commercial opportunities with the United States.  Increasing mutually beneficial trade and investment, while strengthening human capital development for inclusive economic growth, is critically important for both of our countries.  We look forward to working with you to empower the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans and Nigerians, to advance our common prosperity and security, and to create and sustain jobs.

Nigerian companies also benefit from another important trade promotion program: the African Growth and Opportunity Act. AGOA enables Nigerians to import an array of products, including agricultural, duty-free into the United States, including animal feed, cashews, cocoa, ginger, oil seeds, and seafood.  In 2017, Nigeria exported $67 million worth of duty-free vegetable products alone to the United States.

As Nigeria’s youth population dramatically increases, with 50% of the population under 30, it is critical to support employment opportunities that drive economic growth.  The private sector is the most efficient engine to lead that growth, which is why we support improving agricultural productivity through market-based solutions.  Agriculture is estimated to employ nearly 70% of the population, yet it only contributes around 22% to GDP.  We want to continue our partnerships to improve competitiveness and see economic growth extend across the country to every state and every L.G.A.

Over the next two days, you will interact with many businesspeople and government officials about a variety of topics from dairy and livestock to farm equipment.  I urge you to explore U.S. firms that offer superior quality, competitive pricing, and equitable terms.  The United States wants to be Nigeria’s partner of choice.  That is, after all, the heart of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce’s mission.

I wish you great success, and I look forward to hearing about the initiatives and deals that come out of this conference.  Thank you.