IMF head holds talks in Nigeria

2011-12-19 16:12

Abuja - IMF chief Christine Lagarde met Nigeria's president on Monday on her first visit to Africa as head of the fund, with the trip to focus partly on potential fallout from the European debt crisis.

Lagarde entered talks with President Goodluck Jonathan after meeting Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a respected former World Bank managing director, and other Nigerian economic officials earlier in the day.

She did not speak to reporters when entering Jonathan's office along with Okonjo-Iweala. The International Monetary Fund managing director was later to meet with top lawmakers.

Lagarde is expected in the economic capital Lagos on Tuesday for a forum on Africa's future before moving on to the neighbouring nation of Niger.

"I’m really going there to listen and to appreciate what is expected of us by the African countries, by the African governments, by the African people as well, because it’s a region of the world which is facing both huge challenges and huge opportunities," she said ahead of the trip in an IMF video.

"And if we can help in any shape or form by providing technical assistance, by offering policy advice, using our best brains, and by making available the resources that we have, and to give credibility to the reform programmes that some governments have announced and are implementing, then the better."

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and the continent's largest oil producer, but it has long been held back by corruption and mismanagement.

It is seeking to enact reforms, including a deeply controversial measure which would lead to an increase in petrol prices that would allow the country to invest more in its badly neglected infrastructure.

Lagarde's trip is expected to focus on issues such as addressing youth unemployment in Africa, the world's fastest-growing continent, as well as potential fallout from the European debt crisis.

Many African nations rely heavily upon European investment and trade.