WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on Monday urged Nigeria to work to stabilize its currency and fight corruption to unlock what he called the “unrealized opportunity” of Africa’s most populous country.
Adeyemo, who emigrated from Nigeria to the United States as a child, is visiting Nigeria through Tuesday to underscore the Biden administration’s commitment to deepening economic and trade ties with African countries.
His trip comes as Nigeria’s new president, Bola Tinubu, adopts reforms to revive the country’s economy and is part of a broader push by U.S. President Joe Biden to strengthen ties and offer African countries an alternative to Chinese and Russian investment and trade.
“Your economic success is not only important to the approximately 200 million people who call Nigeria home, it is important to the region, the continent and the global economy,” Adeyemo said in a speech at Lagos Business School.
The visit by Adeyemo, the highest-ranking member of the African diaspora in the Biden administration, comes after visits to the continent by other top officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Adeyemo said Nigeria could attract more foreign direct investment if it accelerated efforts to stabilize the nation’s currency, the naira, and revamped its fiscal policies to end fuel subsidies and invest more in digital infrastructure, education and a strong small business environment.
Rooting out corruption, including by moving more licensing and other government functions online, would also fight skepticism and boost digital entrepreneurship, he said.
Adeyemo also called for steps to shore up the integrity of the Nigeria’s banks and reduce the ability of “criminals, terrorists and others” to launder money through the Nigerian financial system. Washington stands ready to help Tinubu’s government tackle challenges in this area, he added.
“The opportunity has never been greater,” he said. “Your government is pursuing difficult and bold reforms. The United States looks forward to being a partner as you build an economy that works for all Nigerians.”
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bill Berkrot)