The Director General of the Nigerian-German Business Association, Ms. Jennifer Anoyika, spoke to Raheem Akingbolu on Nigerian-German relations, the Nigerian economy and prospects in the manufacturing sector. Excerpts:
Can you give some background about Nigerian-German Business Association (NGBA)?
The Nigerian-German Business Association formerly known as the Nigerian-German Business Council was established on the 15th of October 1986. The association was founded by the following interest groups: representatives of the German business community in Nigeria, the Nigerian business community, the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce (DGIC/AHK Nigeria), and the German Embassy.
We organise exclusive sector-related business networking events, including large forums coordinated by us with other partner organisations. We also offer a variety of general and tailor-made services and benefits to our members and visitors in Nigeria. The NGBA will be 30 years in Nigeria this year, and I will say it has been three decades of improving Nigeria’s business climate, strengthening of Nigerian-German business relations by providing members (Nigerian and German businesses) with opportunities to network and access vital trade/business information and resources.
What services offered by NGBA are you most excited about at the moment?
We are very excited about several of our services, which are boosting trade relations between Nigeria and Germany. For instance, through our trade mission programmes, we have consistently shared information and resources which enables German corporations to see and understand the importance of investing in Africa’s biggest economy. A testament to this is the inflow of the much needed foreign direct investment into Nigeria through the entry of German blue chip corporations that include BASF, Bosch, Bayer, MAN Diesel and Knauf into the Nigerian market.
Also, we continue to strengthen the robust business ties of Nigerian businesses with the German business community via business-related exchange programme and visits. We recently embarked on a trade mission visit to the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce in Germany with about 100 German business leaders attending and indicating interest in the Nigerian market.
One other thing we are also excited about is the German Dual Vocational Training (DVT) programme. It is a special way of learning trade in Germany, and this is one of the key pillars of Germany economy. This programme is being implemented in Nigeria to strengthen the country’s industrial base through investments in training programmes that produces skilled manpower.
Through the DVT, young Nigerians are being trained. They attend classes at a vocational training school and receive on-the-job training with blue chip multinational corporations in the country. We are very enthusiastic about the training programme because it is strengthening the industrial capacity of Nigeria.
The NGBA also provides business intelligence for its members. With members, especially non-Nigerians always asking questions about the business climate of the country, we provide them information on the political, economic, and social landscape, even up to travel advisory. Due to the quality of information we provide, they continue to see Nigeria as the preferred investment destination in Africa.
How strong are the business ties between Nigeria and Germany? What interests do Germans have in Nigeria?
The business ties between Nigeria and Germany are very strong. German-Nigerian business relations date back decades. However, all forms of international relations, including trade relations, between both countries were strengthened with the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. The bilateral relations economically and politically came about a series of high-level visits between Germany and Nigeria, which began with President Olusegun Obasanjo’s official visit to Germany in December 1999.
The relations gained momentum under the government of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when in June 2007, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, invited President Yar’Adua, shortly after he had assumed office, to attend the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm.
Also, in November 2008, Mr. Horst Köhler, the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany led a business delegation to Nigeria where we held the 2008 session of his Africa forum in Abuja.
And more recently, we have witnessed the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, visit Germany during the G7 summit and also the visit of the German President, Mr. Joachim Gauck, who came in the company of a business delegation to discuss economic development and relations between both countries. Don’t also forget that Chancellor Merkel also visited Nigeria in 2011 during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure. So, such high-level visits have really helped in strengthening business relations between both countries.
Also, in terms of business relations, we have seen both countries signing treaties to enhance trade relations between them both. For instance, in 2007 the Investment Promotion and Protection treaty was signed by both nations. Again, in August 2008, an MOU was signed between Nigeria and Germany in respect of the Nigerian-German Energy Partnership.
More recently, we have seen private institutions such as the Dangote Group sign a MoU with the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), Germany expressing interest in our liquefied gas, and German-Africa Consortium ready to establish a Mining factory here in Nigeria, and a strong presence of German companies and technology supporting manufacturing in Nigeria.
In all, I can confidently and convincingly say that the business ties between both countries are booming and blossoming.
What particular interests does NGBA have in the Nigerian manufacturing sector? Are you involved in particular manufacturing projects?
Well, the NGBA has been an enabler of investments by German corporations in the Nigerian manufacturing sector, and the heritage of new German corporations coming into the manufacturing sector to invest and/or provide support service portends good for the economy at large because of the well-known efficiency of German technology.
Our overarching interest in the manufacturing sector is the going-concern status of our member corporations and the growth of the sector which will move Nigeria from consumerism to production thereby diversifying and strengthening the economy.
How excited are you about Nigeria as a future manufacturing hub?
The potential of Nigeria as future manufacturing hub is enormous because it will make Nigeria’s huge and youthful population an asset not a liability. It will be one of the most exceptional and exciting consumer environment which represents a huge opportunity for the world’s leading corporations and consumer goods companies seeking exponential growth.
I am extremely confident in the opportunity in Nigeria’s manufacturing sector. It is a market global manufacturers cannot ignore. There are a few challenges in the market right now but I am optimistic about the opportunity and the future that investors in the manufacturing sector will create here.
What in your view are the challenges hampering the development of Nigeria as a manufacturing centre of excellence?
In the recent, especially with dwindling oil revenue, depleting foreign reserves has led to foreign exchange volatility which is impacting local manufacturers negatively making it nearly impossible to source raw materials and machinery.
More importantly, adequate infrastructure has been of one Nigeria’s greatest development challenge. We are however assured by the efforts of past and present government to address the infrastructure challenge. If the infrastructure challenge is resolved, Nigeria’s manufacturing sector will experience rapid growth, possibly surpassing the overall growth forecast for the economy because of its enormous and untapped potential.
What is your vision for the manufacturing industry?
My vision for the manufacturing sector of the economy is improved efficiencies which compares with that of China and other countries in the first instance. I will also add ability to do business the right way and becoming a mass employer of skilled labour adding value to the economy.
What are you looking forward to at the MAN Expo this year?
We are looking forward to partnerships that will benefit our broad membership base as well as the opportunity to keep members who are unable to attend abreast of new technologies, important ever-changing issues and trends within sector which we be showcased during the expo.