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Next month, Canada will host a high-level trade mission from Nigeria. Led by their Vice President, the delegation includes seven cabinet ministers, five state governors and 25 CEOs representing some of Africa’s most successful new businesses. Such high-profile business delegations are not common in Canada. Even more unusual is the fact that they are here for Canada—and not just stopping over on their way to the U.S.

This is good news. Over the next decade, Africa’s economy is expected to grow faster than any other continent. Foreign direct investment has more than tripled over the past ten years, and remains strong despite increasing global headwinds. Appropriate for Canada, the vast majority of this investment goes into extractive or infrastructure projects, which explains why our equipment producers, engineers and mining and energy firms are already making significant inroads.

With a young population of nearly 170 million people and GDP growth averaging more than seven per cent over the last 10 years, Nigeria is on the front lines of the new Africa. So far, there have been a number of Canadian success stories. Nigeria is one of Bombardier’s largest markets for business jets—a service facility was opened there in February. Ottawa-based consultancy CPCS Transcom successfully administered the planning and tendering process for the country’s largest container port in Lagos, and has secured similar contracts in the rail and power sectors. More than half of Nigerian smartphone users have a BlackBerry. When the company launched its latest model, Nigeria was among the first markets to get it.

But doing business in Nigeria is not easy. The political and regulatory climate can be challenging. And there’s no shortage of competition from other countries seeking similar opportunities. Staying ahead of the pack will depend on building strong and lasting relationships between business and government leaders.

We’re off to a good start. Over the past six months, three Canadian cabinet ministers have made high-profile visits to Nigeria. There is talk of signing a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement soon. Next month’s visit has also been seized as an occasion to launch the first Canada-Nigeria Investment Conference, which will take place in Toronto on May 2 and 3. Sustaining this level of engagement is essential if Canada is to have a competitive edge in a region that will only become more important in the future.

For more information on the Canada-Nigeria Investment Conference, please visit the Canadian Council on Africa’s website or download the program.

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