* Nigeria trying to diversify beyond crude oil exports
* Africa's no.2 economy has huge infrastructure challenges
By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA, Jan 31 Nigeria signed a memorandum of
understanding with General Electric on Thursday for $1
billion in investment over the next five years into a factory in
the southeast, the trade ministry said.
The government of Africa's top energy producer is keen to
try to diversify its economy away from oil and gas and into
sectors like manufacturing.
GE has been increasing its exposure to Nigeria, Africa's
second biggest economy, which is growing at around 7 percent,
but faces major infrastructure bottlenecks.
The company signed an MoU with Nigeria in March to help beef
up the West African country's woefully inadequate power grid.
Yemi Kolapo, special assistant to trade minister Olusegun
Aganga, said in a statement the initial investment would be $250
million, followed by incremental spending of at least $1 billion
in the following years.
"The deal ... is expected to create 2,300 jobs and make
Nigeria the regional hub for GE's manufacturing service and
innovation in Africa," he quoted CEO Jeff Immelt as saying after
signing the deal.
"The days for exporting raw materials and jobs are gone.
This is a new Nigeria, and a new Africa."
The factory will be built in a free trade zone in Calabar,
in Nigeria's oil-producing southeastern Niger Delta. The
statement did not say what it would manufacture, but GE's main
interest in Nigeria is in the electricity sector.
Nigeria aims to develop 10 gigawatts of additional
electricity-generating capacity over the next decade, but it is
estimated to need $100 billion of investment in the next decade.
A lot of MoUs are signed with Nigerian authorities that go
nowhere, but the trade ministry was confident.
"This investment will support our industrial revolution
plan," Aganga was quoted as saying.
"No nation ... has moved from being a poor nation to a rich
one by exporting raw materials without a strong industrial base.
Nigeria has the raw materials and market to become not just
number one in Africa but among the top 10 globally."