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The star of West Africa

Updated: 2013-12-02 07:25
( China Daily)

Recent agreements have further strengthened the cooperation between Nigeria and China

Bilateral trade and diplomatic relations between Nigeria and China reached a new high earlier this year when the two continental giants signed a series of agreements to further enhance economic, cultural, trade, financial and technical ties.

Following talks between the two leaders in Beijing in July, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, attended a signing ceremony for several landmark agreements that marked the latest chapter in a successful and long-established partnership.

The signing ceremony also underlined Nigeria's enviable position as Africa's leading investment destination, as eager business people race to take advantage of the country's wealth of natural resources that include vast oil and gas reserves and invest in its huge population of around 160 million.

China accounts for around a quarter of all foreign direct investment, FDI for short, in Nigeria with more than $6 billion flowing into the resource-rich west Africa republic from China in 2011.

At the same time, around $4.6 billion of goods arrived in Nigeria from the Asian economic heavyweight, making China the second largest exporter to Nigeria after the United States.

The star of West Africa

Bilateral trade between China and Nigeria in 2013 is expected to top $13 billion versus a relatively small $2 billion just over a decade ago.

Addressing a large audience at the Nigeria-China Business Forum during his trip to Beijing this summer, President Jonathan said the agreements signed between Chinese and Nigerian companies will lead to stronger economic ties in the short and medium term and underlined his country's robust and stable macro-economic environment.

He added Nigeria is now strategically positioned as the preferred investment destination in Africa and the world, but warned there is a need for economic diversification and less reliance on oil and gas revenues.

"Trade between Nigeria and China accounts for nearly one third of the trade between China and West Africa, and this will continue to grow, indicating the importance of Nigeria to China in the regional market," he said.

"Beyond trade, China has been instrumental to supporting Nigeria with financial arrangement and investment in strategic infrastructure projects like rail, road and free trade zones, among others.

"Nigeria is currently the preferred destination for Chinese companies in Africa and more than 200 Chinese firms are now operating in Nigeria and they are doing very well," said Jonathan.

"Nigeria is open for business as we have some of the best incentives in the world for investors to take advantage of. Our tax policies are quite robust and the business environment is exceptional."

Stanbic IBTC drives growth

Created in 2007 from the merger of Standard Bank Group's Nigerian operations, Stanbic Bank Nigeria, with that of IBTC Chartered Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc is a leading name in Africa's banking and financial services sector. The bank plays a significant role in some of the largest capital markets deals, not only in Nigeria, but in the continent as a whole.

Stanbic IBTC, through its wholly owned stockbroking and asset management subsidiary, IBTC Asset Management Ltd, has several excellent mutual funds including the IBTC Nigerian Equity Fund, which is Nigeria's largest mutual fund.

The bank's corporate and investment banking services include global markets, project and structured finance, equities trading, corporate finance, global custody and a myriad of transactional and electronic banking solutions.

The company is now working hard to strengthen its position in the fast-growing sector and will increasingly play a significant role in the personal and business banking retail environment.

Stanbic IBTC currently has more than 60 branches across the country and over 1,500 staff, meaning it is well positioned to take care of Nigerian's banking requirements.

"Stanbic IBTC is a full service bank, so it provides the entire range of financial services - that is what makes us so unique in this market; we are the only international bank that offers full financial services," said the bank's Chief Executive Sola David-Borha."We have a long-term focus and as such we are very much interested in building our asset base across the small and medium enterprises. We also lend to the corporate sector.

"We have strong project finance capabilities and have been involved in several landmark transactions, including the Lekki Toll road. Our core business grew in 2012 and we expect that we will continue to grow in 2013."

The senior executive believes her bank is the perfect platform for Chinese investors seeking lucrative business openings in Nigeria.

"We think that the infrastructure opportunity in Nigeria is a natural avenue for Chinese investors," she said. "China has execution capabilities in addition to long term funding which are key requirements in delivering a large infrastructure project in a few months.

"We provide professional advice, useful information, networks and access to key people in the government and because of our Pan-African footprint, we know other investors who are looking for opportunities and partners.

"We are here to help and support Chinese investors and we believe that Nigeria's time is now."

InFocus provided the story

(China Daily 12/02/2013 page5)

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