U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and a slew of American business executives are meeting in Nigeria to encourage trade they say will create jobs on both continents. The visit to Nigeria, expected to be among the top 10 economies in the world by 2050, and one of Africa’s smallest but most innovative nations, Rwanda, is designed to transform the perception of Africa from an aid-dependent continent to a region brimming with business opportunities.
She said Africa has seven of the fastest 10 growing economies in the world; a burgeoning young population and a rising middle class (50 million in Nigeria alone). The figures for Nigeria tell the story: In 2014, U.S. exports to Nigeria topped $5.9 billion and imports from Nigeria totaled $3.8 billion, compared to U.S. aid of $694 million last year.
The latest U.S push comes as Nigeria is hurting from the downturn in the economy of China, which last year overtook the U.S. to become Nigeria’s biggest trading partner. China accounted for 22.5% of Nigeria’s imports in the third quarter of 2015, compared to 9.6% from the U.S., according to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics.
GE is investing $200 million in Nigeria to build two facilities to assemble oil and gas and power generation equipment that the company hopes to export to other West African nations. The company employs nearly 500 people in Nigeria.