London can – and should – be the leading financial hub for the developing world

Priti Patel
Canary Wharf By Night
Trade, investment and free markets provide the route out of poverty (Source: Getty)

The UK is a global leader in enterprise, free markets and trade – and the City of London is one of our great success stories.

Combined with Britain’s proud history of fighting poverty, it is clear that London can – and indeed should – be the leading financial centre for the developing world.

I am opening the London Stock Exchange this morning at the heart of the world’s financial services powerhouse, where I will be addressing leading Nigerian investors as London welcomes the first African convertible bond on to the LSE’s International Securities Market.

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Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest population and largest economy, and the UK has long and enduring business links with this country. One fifth of FTSE 100 companies have a presence in Nigeria, and bilateral trade between our countries is worth £4bn a year.

Brexit will enable us to strengthen these links by removing current EU barriers to trade and replacing them with free and fair trade, providing a unique opportunity to redefine and build on the relationship between London and Lagos – with huge economic benefit for us all.

As a frequent visitor to Nigeria, it is clear to me that our support to this emerging economy is crucial. The Nigerian population is set to double by 2050. Its potential has no limits but it also faces some serious challenges.

I believe that trade, investment and free markets provide the route out of poverty, and I am committed to helping countries to stand on their own two feet. No country can defeat poverty without sustained economic growth.

That’s why I am urging the private sector to rise to the challenge of supporting jobs and growth that prevent people from falling further into the grinding poverty that fuels global migration and instability – problems with consequences for us at home, as well as abroad.

I want to see more British companies working and investing in Nigeria – and more Nigerian companies succeeding here. Ending aid dependency and creating new markets for trade, investment, and inclusive growth will lead to a more prosperous world for us all.

Let us not underestimate the opportunities to be gained from revitalising our partnership with Nigeria – a growing African economic power and a Commonwealth country with a $23bn annual market for consumer products and services.

Yet despite the clear mutual benefits, the full potential of the private sector in Nigeria has not been maximised. The country’s economic transformation will require an extra £50bn a year in additional investment.

The UK government is leading by example – earlier this month at the World Bank Annual Meetings, I confirmed my department’s continued commitment to the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC). CDC invests much-needed capital into thousands of African businesses, creating millions of jobs and generating vital tax revenues.

As part of this, CDC will open a new office in Lagos, allowing them to provide greater investment and expertise to Nigerian businesses.

CDC’s investments include EcoBank, which now serves 13.7m customers across 36 African countries, and today is able to raise $150m of additional investment by issuing the first African convertible bond on the London Stock Exchange.

This is a significant step in helping African companies tap into new sources of investment.

Make no mistake, there is enormous potential to strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and Britain – and finance, the private sector, trade, and investment between our economies are essential to securing a shared and prosperous future.

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