A Swedish business delegation, headed by Sweden’s deputy minister for trade, Gunnar Oom, visited Lagos during the past week to meet with Nigerian trade, ICT and energy sector stakeholders. The aim was to present innovative solutions to potential Nigerian partners and seize some of the many business opportunities Nigeria has to offer.
The delegation organised by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish Trade Council is also launching a three-year Swedish ICT venture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Sweden has always prioritised relations with Africa in its foreign relations with Swedish trade with Nigeria increasing significantly in recent years; Nigeria is currently Sweden’s second largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Nigeria is a real power in the region so it’s very logical we are here,” Oom said while speaking with THISDAY. He clarified further the purpose of the visit: “We are looking at how to match the Swedish industrial capability with the demand in Nigeria: energy for instance.
“The Swedish energy mix is fifty percent nuclear, fifty percent hydro and there is (hydro) potential in Nigeria to be explored and we can help with that and also with transmission lines,” Oom continued.
Speaking further he said: “Swedish companies have been active in Nigeria for many years, but I am sure that what we have seen so far is only the beginning. The Swedish Government is working hard to further develop and strengthen the economic ties between our countries. It is with great pleasure I am leading this delegation to Nigeria.”
Sweden is internationally regarded as a leading nation in environmental sustainability and social responsibility, areas Oom said the Nordic country is ready to help the West African nation with.
Another area where Sweden is renowned for and where there is room for symbiotic development is in information and communications technology. Sweden has ranked as the world’s number one digital economy for three consecutive years.
“We see great business opportunities for Swedish companies in Nigeria, with its rapidly growing ICT sector,” said Mats Paulson, Vice President Middle East, Central Asia & Africa at the Swedish Trade Council.
Oom adds another angle to the power of ICT. Commenting on recent developments in the Middle East he said, “The Arabic spring is highly appreciated from a Swedish point of view, the liberalization opened up these countries, the emancipation is welcome. We are also proud of the fact that the starting point of the revolution was social media.”
Confirming the importance placed on the African continent in Sweden’s foreign policy he revealed, “I’ve already led delegations to Tunisia, Libya and Algeria.”
The foreign policy of Sweden is based on the premise that national security is best served by staying free of alliances in peacetime in order to remain a neutral country in the event of war. In 2002, Sweden revised its security doctrine. The security doctrine still states that “Sweden pursues a policy of non-participation in military alliances,” but permits cooperation in response to threats against peace and security.
A fallout of this policy could be responsible for Sweden’s refusal to join the Eurozone, despite being a member of the European Union. Asked if his Sweden would consider joining the Eurozone Oom opined, “
For the moment I would say it’s not really a good measure but as you know no man is an island so we can’t just stay on the sidelines and watch the developments in the Eurozone, we have to participate without necessarily being a member.”