BRITISH High Commission to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, on Thursday, forecasted that business cooperation between Nigeria and the United Kingdom (UK) would become stronger, even when the country eventually leaves the European Union.
He said that the UK was naturally looking to grow its market share, encourage more businesses to come to Nigeria for investment and to encourage more inward investment into the UK from Nigeria.
Speaking at an economic roundtable in Lagos, the envoy said that he hoped Brexit will mean more British travellers visiting Nigeria for the same reasons that Nigerians went to the UK.
He noted that the UK remained fifth largest exporter to Nigeria with bilateral trade relationship worth $3.8 billion per annum.
“The historical and cultural links between Nigeria and the UK, the common language of English that the vast majority of Nigerians speak, the strong educational and business links don’t change,” he said.
He said, “I don’t know if it will mean more Nigerians travelling to the UK. In 2014, over one hundred and sixty eight thousand people applied for visas to the UK. Over 70 per cent of those applications were successful and the visas granted within seven to 15 days from the date of application.
“We want Nigerians to travel to the UK. They come to do business, to study, to see family and to invest in our economy. There could be as many as 250,000 Nigerian nationals or dual Nigerian – British nationals living in the UK at the moment.
“The key thing for any visitor to the UK is that they respect the law and the length of time their visa says they can stay in the UK. A minority of Nigerian visitors don’t do that and it is only with that minority that we have an issue.
”In particular, I want people to come and explore the business opportunities that Nigeria offers. We think there are roughly 20,000 British and dual nationals living in Nigeria now. That figure may and I hope it will grow as British businesses of all sizes are encouraged to look outward still further, to export and do business, creating jobs in Nigeria.
“It would help us of course if the process of getting a Nigerian visa was made easier and I have raised this with the Nigerian Foreign Minister and his team, and with the Nigerian High Commission in London.
“UK citizens should meet the requirements that the Nigerian government sets when they apply for a visa. I know that, and I would be the first to ensure they did that.
“But more Brits would come to Nigeria if it was simpler to apply for and the process for getting a visa was quicker. That is something for the Nigerian government to reflect on when they try to attract new investors to Nigeria.
“Whatever Brexit means for the UK, it is also clear that Nigeria is going through a painful adjustment period as the Government seeks to diversify the economy away from being dependent on oil and gas and into other areas. I support that approach. The price of oil may increase. But that industry alone can’t support the need for jobs that Nigerians now have.
”I think what happens here in Nigeria and the choices made by the Nigerian government will be more important for the Nigerian economy than whatever Brexit may mean for Nigeria. And I am optimistic for the UK and I am optimistic for Nigeria.
”UK will leave the European Union. And we believe Britain will emerge still stronger and more engaged with the world and Nigeria thereafter.”