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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.

The prime minister had 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, with British officials eyeing a doubling of trade with Nigeria over the next decade or so.

“Bilateral trade between Britain and Nigeria was up to £4.2-billion [$5.42-billion, 4.64-billion euros], 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 $7-billion in goods from Beijing.

May will hold talks with President Muhammadu Buhari before heading 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 more 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.

© Agence France-Presse

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