ABUJA: Nigeria has signed a billion dollar memorandum of understanding with General Electric to build a plant that could create up to 2,300 jobs in Africa’s most populous country, a statement said on Friday.

The deal includes $250 million (€183 million) in upfront spending for the project in the southeastern city of Calabar, near the oil hub of Port Harcourt, with the balance of the funds to be invested over time.

Trade and Investment Minister Olusegun Aganga said the deal was in line with Nigeria’s twin goals of improving electricity supply and diversifying the economy beyond power generation, although the statement did not specify what the plant would produce.

“The investment is in critical areas of our economy, namely energy infrastructure,” Aganga said at Thursday’s ceremony in the capital Abuja.

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, is still experiencing daily power cuts, but the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to improve electricity supplies.

Oil and gas revenues have been largely responsible for Nigeria’s steady economic growth over the past decade, which has averaged 7%, according to official figures.

But the government’s own statistics also indicate that poverty actually worsened in the country between 2004 and 2010, a trend that analysts say was partly the result of overreliance on an energy sector that produces little. jobs.

“No nation has gone from a poor nation to a rich nation by exporting raw materials without a strong industrial base,” Aganga said at the ceremony attended by GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

“The days of exporting raw materials and jobs are over. This is a new Nigeria,” he added.

The statement said the deal “is expected to create 2,300 jobs and establish Nigeria as the regional hub for GE’s manufacturing and innovation services in Africa.”

Aganga assured that Nigeria, where corruption remains endemic and running a business often involves struggling with significant bureaucratic hurdles, would increasingly become an attractive investment target for foreign companies. (AFP)