United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, on Tuesday, pressed Nigeria to tackle barriers like corruption and difficulty repatriating profits that have dampened the business climate for American companies looking to invest in Africa’s largest economy.
He disclosed this to State House correspondents after meeting with President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
In a press briefing alongside Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Amb. Yusuf Tuggar, Blinken praised Nigeria’s economic potential but said: “long-term challenges need to be overcomed to really unlock the full potential.”
He said the U.S. was eager to partner with and invest in Nigeria’s dynamic private sector, especially in technology and entrepreneurship.
However, Blinken noted that corruption remains a major obstacle, saying “companies that come in and invest, want to make sure that they’re going to be investing with a fair and level playing field.”
He also cited difficulty repatriating capital as an impediment to investment that Nigeria’s government should address.
“And in so doing, create, create new jobs, new opportunities, and even new industries. This is a big focus of our binational position in the work that I mentioned as well as there remain some impediments systems.
“We hear from our own business community. That I think standard way of maximizing those opportunities. One is the repatriation of capital is important.
“I know the Central Bank governor is building on that. And second is the ongoing effort to combat corruption because companies that come in and invest, want to make sure that they’re going to be investing with a fair and level playing field.
“And corruption, of course, is a big impediment. So, having said all of that, but I do think we’re seeing a little bit when we had the Africa Leaders Summit hosted by President Biden.
“One of the commitments we made was to generate an additional $55 billion in the private sector investment in Africa over the next few years. Well, here we are one year after the signing, and we are 40% of the way to achieving that goal.
“By the end, like two years after the summit, based on the trajectory we’re on now, we will be at 70% of that goal, and we will achieve the goal in the three years President Biden setup, that’s just one important manifestation, not only of our commitment to generating private sector investment.”
Blinken emphasised the importance of the US-Nigeria relationship and said Nigeria was “essential” to US efforts in Africa.
Blinken highlighted areas of cooperation between the two countries, including on climate action, blue economy development, science and technology exchange, and public health.
He commended Nigeria’s progress in responding to HIV, COVID-19 and other diseases.
The Secretary of State also discussed opportunities for increased U.S. private sector investment in Nigeria’s technology and entrepreneurship sectors.
On security, Blinken offered condolences for recent attacks in Nigeria and pledged continued U.S. support in combating terrorism and violent extremism in the country.
He emphasised the importance of civilian security, human rights and accountability.
Blinken said the U.S. was determined to be a security partner for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
He said the U.S. will provide security assistance through military training, equipment transfers, intelligence sharing and comprehensive approaches focusing on local communities.
Overall, Blinken characterised this as a consequential time for the US-Nigeria partnership.
He said the two countries were increasingly focused not only on bilateral issues but on addressing regional and global challenges together.
Blinken outlined the President Joe Biden administration’s principles regarding the Gaza Strip.
Blinken stated the U.S. opposes any changes to Gaza’s territory or displacement of people from the area.
He reaffirmed American support for “maintaining effective territorial integrity” between Gaza and the West Bank.
“We’ve been very clear about opposing any formal change to Gaza’s territory configuration,” Blinken said.
He indicated that U.S. believed there could be a role for “transitional arrangements” as Israel draws down military operations in Gaza.
On his part, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Yussuf Tuggar, emphasised “commonalities” between the two countries in supporting a two-state solution.
Tuggar acknowledged Nigeria has been “very expressive” in criticising Israeli military actions in Gaza.
“It’s not surprising that Nigeria of course, has been very expressive,” Tuggar said.
Tuggar stated that Nigeria remains focused on the shared goal of a two-state solution despite differing responses to the violence.
“Each country behaves with regards to foreign policy with the influence of domestic politics and domestic influences,” he stated.