MAIDSTONE and The Weald Member for Parliament Helen Grant has been appointed by British prime minister Boris Johnson as the UK’s new trade envoy to Nigeria as part of an ambitious programme to grow commerce between both nations.
Ms Grant, 59, who trained as an orthopaedic surgeon, was born in Willesden, north London to an English mother and a Nigerian father. She joined the Labour Party in 2004 and was asked by a senior local party figure to consider becoming a local councillor but she rejected the idea and in 2006 left to join the Conservatives.
First elected into office in 2010, Ms Grant was appointed as parliamentary under-secretary of state for courts and victims in 2012 by the then prime minister David Cameron. She has also served as parliamentary under-secretary of state for equalities and as minister of state for sport and tourism.
A former British colony which gained independence in 1960, Nigeria has traditionally been dependent on British investment and over recent years, attempts have been made to boost foreign direct investment (FDI). With Nigeria having an infrastructural deficit of about $100bn, there have attempts made to attract FDI into core areas like housing, transport, sewage, power generation and healthcare.
Last year, Chief Segun Awolowo, the executive director of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, predicted that FDI from the UK could rise to as much as $4.5bn in 2030 from the meagre $1bn witnessed then. Bilateral trade between Nigeria and the UK stood at £4.2bn in 2017, growing by an average of 7% per annum since 2008 and Ms Grant is expected to accelerate this process.
Nigeria is seen as one of the most important international markets for UK trade and investment opportunities as Britain leaves the European Union (EU) on December 31. Apart from anything else, Nigeria is the largest and fastest growing economy with a gross domestic product of about $375bn.
With a population of 200 million, Nigeria shares a similar legal system, time-zone, national language and a long history of intertwined cultures with the UK. While official census figures indicate that there are at least 200,000 Nigerian nationals resident in the UK, unofficial sources put the number at a over a million including undocumented and dual-heritage citizens.
Ms Grant said: ‘I am absolutely delighted with my appointment as the prime minister’s UK trade envoy to Nigeria. Both countries are close to my heart, my father being Nigerian and my mother English and now I have an opportunity to employ my rich dual heritage to help magnify an already strong UK-Nigerian relationship for our mutual prosperity.
“As the largest and fastest growing economy on the African continent, the potential for trade and investment with Nigeria is stunning. I will do my utmost to help develop that as part of our nation’s collective drive toward an outward looking global Britain.”