Britain's May takes trade-touting tour to Nigeria

Britain's Theresa May landed in Nigeria's capital on Wednesday on the second leg of her maiden Africa tour aimed at drumming up post-Brexit trade deals outside the European Union.

While in Abuja, May held talks with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari after which both leaders oversaw the signing of two agreements on security and the economy.

"There are two agreements that were signed today. The first one was on a defence and security pact between our two country's respective national security advisers and the second one was an economic development forum that's been set up," Nigeria Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told reporters.

"This clearly highlights the two priority areas in our relationship at the moment," he said.

He said the defence and security pact was to help tackle Nigeria's challenges such as military training, policing and human rights.

"On the economic development forum... it's looking to leverage areas where we have, as countries, competitive advantages: the financial centre that London is and the investment opportunities in our country, to build that up with the private sector as well as at the government level," he said.

Onyeama said the pact would be comprehensive and involve different stakeholders.

"This is in the context of the UK's Brexit, coming out of the European Union. They feel freer now to engage with countries on a bilateral level and build up trade relations with those countries," he said.

"For us this also fits into our economic recovery and growth plan where the president has put forward a road map for transforming this country and so this partnership will be a framework that will achieve very much in our economic recovery and growth plan".

May kicked off her three-nation visit in Cape Town on Tuesday where she pledged to prioritise investment in Africa - although it was her diffident dance moves rather than her diplomacy that captured the headlines.

The tour, which will also take her to Kenya, is part of a campaign to promote Britain's global ambitions after Brexit.

With just seven months until Britain formally leaves the EU, May is under pressure back home from those sceptical of her ability to forge post-Brexit trade deals but British officials ae eyeing a doubling of trade with Nigeria over the next decade or so.

"Bilateral trade between Britain and Nigeria was up to $5.42bn, in 2017 and we expect to more than double this figure by 2030," Laure Beaufils, Britain's deputy high commissioner to Nigeria, told a press conference ahead of May's arrival in Abuja.

China is currently Nigeria's biggest trading partner with Abuja importing some $7bn in goods from Beijing.

After the talks in Abuja, May later headed to Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital, where she will hold talks on efforts to stem the migrant flow to Europe and meet victims of modern slavery.

As Africa's most populous country, Nigeria is the main country from which migrants leave for Europe, with 37 500 Nigerian nationals reaching the Italian coast in 2016 and 18 000 in 2017, according to International Organisation for Migration (IOM) figures.

In December, the IOM said that more than 36 000 Nigerians were stranded in Libya and Niger. Nigeria's immigration agency estimates that 10 000 of its citizens died while trying to cross the Sahara or the Mediterranean between January and May 2017.

The British premier will then head on to Kenya for the last leg of her three-day trip.

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