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Ex-Im Bank Roundtable Promotes U.S. Exports to the Dynamic Nigerian Market

By J. Joseph Grandmaison - Ex-Im Bank Board Member

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 15, 2007

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Nigeria
Former Nigerian Finance and Foreign Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala describes opportunities for U.S. exporters and lenders in the dynamic Nigerian marketplace at a Nigerian Roundtable at Ex-Im Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Recognizing Nigeria's tremendous economic growth, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) held a roundtable in Washington, D.C., Thursday March 15, 2007, to brief U.S. manufacturers and commercial lenders on ways to bring high-quality U.S. goods and services to Nigerian buyers with the help of Ex-Im Bank.

Former Nigerian Finance and Foreign Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, currently a Distinguished Fellow at The Brookings Institution, opened the session with a call to U.S. banks and businesses to reach out to Nigeria as a promising market for U.S. exports: Nigeria is changing, she said. Those who come in on the ground floor now are those who will reap substantial benefits.

Okonjo-Iweala cited Nigeria's tremendous progress in recent years in achieving economic stability through improved debt management, privatization, deregulation, banking and trade policy reform, and government and institutional measures to create transparency and fight corruption. As a result, she said, inflation has dropped from 28% to 11%, external debt has been cut from $35 billion to $5 billion, and Nigeria's gross domestic product is growing robustly.

Okonjo-Iweala said substantial opportunities exist for U.S. exporters and banks in Nigeria in the sectors of mining, power generation, commercial agriculture, aviation, hospitality and tourism, entertainment services, clothing and textiles, real estate and construction, manufacturing, and financial services.

Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President James H. Lambright agreed that Nigeria offers tremendous opportunities as a growth market, and our goal is to see a lot more U.S. businesses in this region selling to Nigerian buyers, backed by Ex-Im Bank. Lambright cited Ex-Im Bank's $350 million special delegated authority facility with 16 Nigerian banks, which expedites the processing of short- and medium-term Ex-Im Bank financing for the purchase of U.S. goods and services by Nigerian buyers.

In Fiscal Year 2006, Ex-Im Bank authorized $104 million in financing to support 34 short- and medium-term U.S. export transactions to Nigeria.

Participants in the Roundtable included representatives of Bechtel, Boeing Corp., Caterpillar Americas Co., Cisco Systems Inc., Citigroup, Fluor Enterprises Inc., GE Capital Markets Services Inc., Halliburton Energy Services, Harris Corp., HSBC Securities, IBM, John Deere and Co., J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, M&T Bank, Motorola Inc., Siemens Financial Services, Societe Generale, Sovereign Bank, Standard Bank of New York, The Shaw Group Inc., and the United States Energy Association.

Ex-Im Bank officials described the Bank's financing tools and special programs for sub-Saharan Africa, including a short-term insurance pilot program that makes the Bank's short-term export credit insurance available to support U.S. exports to 19 sub-Saharan African countries that otherwise would be ineligible for support, and a new Nigerian Oil and Gas Subcontractor Initiative.

In addition, representatives of the U.S. Commerce Department's Commercial Service, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation addressed the Roundtable on ways the U.S. government can assist in growing the Nigerian-U.S. commercial relationship.

We very much value Ex-Im Bank's assistance around the world and in sub-Saharan Africa, said John Matthews of Boeing Capital. Nigeria's ARIK Air is scheduled to take two Boeing 737-700s in April. This is our first transaction there in over 20 years, and we hope for more opportunities in the future.

Nigeria is a major market for us, said Kanu C. Obioha of cosmetics company Bluefield Associates, Inc. Because of Ex-Im Bank, we've doubled our sales to Nigeria. I appreciated Minister Okonio-Iweala's enlightening words about her country's reforms and the opportunities available to U.S. exporters.

Dwayne Stepter of Hughes Network Systems, LLC, added, I'm excited about the potential opportunities in uncovering ICT (integrated communications technologies) projects on the continent, and we believe Ex-Im Bank provides a venue to potentially go into that market.

Nigerian buyers and banks interested in learning more about buying U.S. products backed by Ex-Im Bank financing may visit Ex-Im Bank's web site at www.exim.gov and click on Africa in the Ex-Im Bank's Key Markets section on the home page, or visit the U.S. Commerce Department's Commercial Service web site for Nigeria at www.buyusa.gov/nigeria/en/. U.S. companies and lenders interested in learning more about exporting to Nigeria and how Ex-Im Bank can help also may visit Ex-Im Bank's web site, or call 1-800-565-3946 and choose option 2 to reach the nearest Ex-Im Bank regional office.