When Nigeria gained independence and became a sovereign state in 1960, some great business minds saw the need to enhance business relationship between the United States of America and Nigeria that same year.
At that time in 1960, the Chamber which started as a Luncheon club then known as the Nigerian-American Friendship Club was made of a few eminent Nigerians and an American namely Late Sir. Mobolaji Bank Anthony, Chief (DR.) Christopher Ogunbanjo and Bob Fleming, the Public Relations Officer of Mobil at that time. Another prime mover was Bob Hewitt, Managing Director of former Chase Manhattan Bank.
The Luncheon Club gradually metamorphosed into NACC with Late Sir Mobolaji Bank Anthony as its founding President.
Today, it is a veritable forum for concretely and comprehensively addressing challenges of enhancing Nigerian and American business relations.
During the first eight years of its existence, the Chamber’s Secretariat was run by an elected honorary Secretary General.
With the need for more purposeful administrative machinery and functional secretariat, Chief Frank O. Akinrele (SAN) was appointed the first General Secretary, followed by Chief J. Akin-George who later became president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Following the volume of activities engendered by the increase in membership of the Chamber, an Administrative Secretary, Mr. Alabi Thompson was appointed in 1968 for the day-to-day running of the Chamber under the direction of the board through the General Secretary.
The Secretariat which was located at the first floor of the former Bank of America with only one staff was moved temporarily to 42/46 Balogun Street, Lagos where the board met twice a year (except for emergencies).
With the assistance of Mr. Raymond Baker of Overseas Investment Company, the Secretariat was again relocated to an apartment at Investment House 21/25 Broad Street, Lagos.
At present, NACC’s secretariat is located in a more spacious and befitting place on the 2nd floor of Capwire/Washaman Building, 19A Sinari Daranijo Street, Off Ajose Adeogun ,V/Island Lagos fitted with up to date communication gadgets, secretariat facilities, and a Board Room.
The Chamber is not only a Lagos affair. Like a mustard seed, it has grown in membership culminating in the opening of branches in state capitals.
Presently there are six state chapters namely Kaduna, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Abeokuta and Abuja.
Plans are on to revive dormant chapters as well as expand to other states in the country.
In addition, to boost its international posture efforts are being made to establish a chapter of the Chamber in Los Angeles.
A chapter of the chamber was inaugurated in Washington DC in 2007 and efforts are on to strengthen it and make it fit for purpose.
To encourage participation of all members in its affairs, the Chamber runs a three tier structure, the Board of Directors, the Committees and the Secretariat.
This enables the Chamber realize its lofty aims and objectives which include the fostering of trade and commerce investment between Nigeria and America and liaising with the Nigerian Government and its agencies throughout the country on trade and industry related matters.
Information gathering and dissemination relating to trade and commerce promotion between Nigerian businesspersons and their American counterparts receive priority attention.
The Chamber also publishes newsletters and other periodicals in furtherance of the Chamber’s objectives.
In view of its bilateral composition, activities of NACC fall into two levels: National and International.
At the national level, the chamber keeps to the tradition of its luncheon meetings where members come together to discuss issues that affect business and commerce with top government officers and experts.
Often visiting international businesspersons of repute are invited. Chamber activities and programs include Breakfast meetings, workshops and seminars aimed at equipping and polishing local business persons and entrepreneurs to international standards; trade missions to the United States of America where member – companies enjoy the unique opportunity of exhibiting their products and services and making useful contacts with their American partners; the Nigerian – American Businesspersons’ Day, organized in Lagos annually where member-companies showcase their products and services to the general public.
In November of 2002 the Chamber signed a Memorandum of Understanding USAID West African Trade Hub (WATH), Accra under which the Chamber hosts the Nigerian Africa growth and opportunity Act (AGOA) Resource Centre, ARC within its Secretariat.
The Chamber partnered with the WATH/Accra to disseminate information on the benefits derivable from this American initiative. It also conducted studies on agricultural products on behalf of WATH.
Between its inception in 2002 and 2009 when the AGOA Resources Centre, in partnership with the Nigerian Government, moved to more expansive offices within the Nigerian Bank of Industries, hundreds of Nigerians utilized the services of the Centre.
We remain in close collaboration with the ARC with the Chamber’s AGOA specialist continuing to provide high quality advisory services to those of our members who required such services.
As a result of the movement of the ARC to the Bank of Industry premises we were able to actualize a long planned mission of establishing what we tagged SME Learning Centre in August 2010.
This Centre will focus on providing technical assistance to our members (and non members) majority of whom belong to small and growing business, SGBs, in such areas as export procedure/documentation and supply chain management.
The courses and workshops to be staged by the Centre will be fee based and will provide in-house financial support to the chamber. The first set of courses was staged in August of 2010.
The chamber takes part in international seminars and exhibitions and has participated fully at several conferences in the United States of America and Nigeria on economic development and growth.
Distinguished visitors like Mr. Jimmy Carter, former president of the US, Mr. Walter Mondale, former Vice President and Mr. George W. Bush, then a Vice President who have been guests of the Nigerian government at various times have also been hosted by the Chamber.
Plans are afoot to revive Henry Fajemirokun Lectures and Awards. First held in 1983, the lecture and award commemorate the useful services, to Nigeria business, of a past president Late High Chief Henry Oloyede Fajemirokun. The award honours deserving personalities in the Nigerian business community.
Another program that is being revived is the young entrepreneurship award tagged “NACC Young Entrepreneurship Award”
A brain child of a past president of the Chamber Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, the award, at that time the first of its kind by a bilateral Chamber of commerce in Nigeria, is meant to encourage young persons in the various professions, vocations and businesses to strive towards excellence and high ethical standard in business and in general life.
The Chamber has a strong advocacy role. While it does not influence legislature directly, it constantly lends its voice and positive direction to relevant legislations.
These days it often partners with Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (MAN), Chamber of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) in making demand for improved business environment.
Numerical growth is not the Chamber’s priority rather it is interested in the quality of members, those who understand the objectives and goal of a typical bilateral Chamber and thus willing to fully participate in its activities. Membership falls into different Categories of A, B ,C and D , based on share capital / turnover.
The Chamber has been blessed with dedicated and committed successive leadership since inception. Their competence, drive and dedication to the cause of the Chamber have been responsible for the immense success of the chamber throughout its history.
Multinational corporations like Mobil, Gulf Oil (Now Chevron), Texaco, Arthur Anderson (now Accenture), American International Insurance Company (AIICO) and Foremost Dairies have played tremendous role in the growth of the Chamber. In recent times multinationals like Coca-Cola, MTN, and Access bank have joined the above companies in consistently supporting the chamber.
53 years on, The Nigeria-American Chamber of Commerce has grown into a dynamic organization.
It stands as a pillar of the relationship between United States of America and Nigeria, serving as an important catalyst in bringing together people and ideals to bolster bilateral commercial relations.
It has witnessed dramatic changes as they evolve in Nigeria, Africa and the world culminating in a flourishing healthy trade and commercial relations between the United States and Nigeria thereby promoting the creation of wealth and prosperity not only to its members but also to the citizens of the two countries.
It is indeed a valuable Bridge between the business sectors of Nigeria and United State of America.