Although Brazil and Nigeria share historical and cultural ties, the former outstrips the latter in industrial development and poverty reduction strategies. President, Nigeria Community in Parana State, Brazil, Mr. Afolabi Vincent Olowofela, shares his views with Abimbola Akosile on useful development lessons for Nigeria from the South American nation. Excerpts:
How long have you been in Brazil and what made you decide to stay in Parana, the sixth largest state in the country?
My name is Olowofela Afolabi Vincent, a native of Igbara-Odo Ekiti in Ekiti State in Nigeria and President, Nigeria Community in Parana State, Brazil. I have been living in Brazil since 2012.
Without a doubt, Brazilians are the most cheerful and friendly people in the world. They are communicative and welcoming as well. I decided to stay in Parana because of its incredible diversity of nature and ethnicity, beautiful weather and modern agriculture. Everywhere you go there are spectacular new perspectives. Parana is the sixth largest state in Brazil and the regional differences in Paranaense are quite pronounced. There is much more than carnival, football and agriculture, which make the Brazilian people unique.
There appears to be a large Nigerian community in Parana, in which areas of the Brazilian economy are you and others of the Nigerian community actively involved?
Nigerians in Parana are many and we primarily focus on study and business with the expectation that many of us already possess strong understanding and some are lecturers in the University and managers who combine business with art.
Our involvement includes roles in academics, sales, marketing, culture and art, and information analysis which have culminated in our personal self-employed business management for many years. However, we have significantly improved Nigeria culture and art in Brazil, and widened the range of values in the field of international inter-relations.
As the President of the Nigeria Community in Parana State, how do you work with other State Communities and the Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil to make sure Nigerians are gainfully employed and not crime-oriented or disruptive in a faraway country?
As I was elected the president, I contacted the Embassy and the Presidents of Nigeria Community in other states to provide milestones in our brotherhood that will allow us to become successful, innovative and professional.
Also, I seek to raise a conference of all the Nigeria Communities to improve the social well-being of all Nigerians in Brazil, to bring about socio-economic change with entrepreneurial attitudes to enable Nigerians become self-reliant, productive, responsible and contributing members of the community through active participation and involvement.
And I have been trying to help provide the skills and knowledge to the under-privileged Nigerians so that they can recognise and use the resources around them for their holistic empowerment.
Brazil has become a manufacturing giant and a net exporter of various products on the global stage although it was a contemporary to Nigeria in the 70s. To you, what lessons can Nigeria learn to also move up the growth and development ladder?
In 1985, there was a return of civilian government in Brazil since 1964 and Jose Sarney de Araujo Costa was inaugurated as the first civilian president. Costa had to confront enormous problems such as debt, inflation, recession, unemployment, poverty and injustice. Fortunately he had and shared a vision for rapid economic expansion via agricultural production, new economic policies and anti-inflation programme. Also, Brazil`s old elites campaigned for economic growth, modernisation and eliminating government corruption and inefficiency, which resulted in a lot of developmental values.
Nigeria can be great with reforms to increase modern agriculture, mining operations and public investment that will provide good electricity and infrastructure to facilitate the growth of urban communities and increase industrialisation.
The poverty reduction model in Brazil which was employed under former President Ignacio Lula Da Silva is a worldwide best practice. How can Nigeria learn from this development experience to help alleviate poverty back home?
Former President Ignacio Lula Da Silva was a leader dedicated to eradicating poverty and building a more inclusive Brazil by improving the standard of living in Brazil and creating innovative entrepreneurs. He invested capital in Brazilians, providing the flexibility and security to grow agriculture and reach as many poor farmers as possible.
He empowered them with tools, agriculture loans, network and technical assistance as long-term solutions to poverty, and re-defined agriculture priorities by providing the citizens with fastest agriculture machines and new technologies.
He had a vision based on dignity, where every Brazilian has the same opportunity to create “The house, my life” programme, with family allowances support system to unlock their full potential. Nigerian leaders should also create impact-oriented programs that will help us develop as a nation.
Brazil is also famous for its agriculture practices….what are the best lessons for farmers in Nigeria to address both local demand and meet export quotas and requirements?
Agriculture in Brazil has been a source of feeding its growing population, generating employment, earning foreign exchange, providing raw materials for industries and engendering sustainable development with significant poverty reduction.
Farmers in Nigeria need rural transformation, redistribution, poverty alleviation and socio-economic development, with several agricultural associations to solicit from their governments to make the agricultural sector the engine of growth and to develop the agricultural potential for rapid industrial and economic development, with introduction of agricultural machines at a cheaper rate for macro-faming.
Although Brazil’s population is larger than Nigeria’s 186 million population size, it is managing its population through urbanization initiatives…how can Nigeria tap from this to help check rural-urban drift and even migration to Europe and other foreign countries?
Urbanisation and openness to regional, national and international trade serve several important roles in attracting tourism and checking migration and rural-urban drift. The current Mayor of Curitiba, Rafael Valdomiro Greca de Macedo made Curitiba’s urbanisation attractive as a destination for investment capital, which rests on its development of infrastructure, resource availability, productivity, and the business value chain.
Nigeria delegations from Lagos and Plateau state visited Curitiba in 2017 for urbanisation partnership, but efforts should be made to create a more business-friendly environment, with national and international free trade agreements typically initiated by market-progressive governments as reasonable mechanisms for inducing economic activity and growth. Also, the urbanisation process in the country should be diffused, through a more internalised urban network, wherein an unprecedented expansion of many medium urban nuclei with important influence areas can begin.
Brazilians are generally regarded as fun-loving but their country is largely industrialised…to you, how can Nigerians combine the same qualities to ensure better development in the home country?
In Brazil, natural resources are used to industrialise because natural resources play a key part to spur development and pull the country’s economy toward a competitive spot in the global marketplace.
Unfortunately, the difficulty in harnessing and implementation of the available natural resources in Nigeria is more political rather than developmental as the citizens rarely benefit. Also, Nigeria has not lived up to her development potential due to the resource curse and the negative effect of natural resources on the economy, society and politics.
On the other hand, profits from natural resources extradition will create employment for hard-working youths and entrepreneurs, where the combined energy, creativity and talent of the people can be focused on finding ways to enhance social livelihood.
Although Nigeria receives a lot of Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) and foreign remittances from citizens living abroad, what can be done to ensure a better enabling environment to attract greater FDI and inflows?
International investors need to be aware of the correlation between tax rates and economic performance because no economy can develop without electricity. Political and economic stability represent an opportunity for enterprises to have a better future. The government should find modern techniques to combat constant social unrest that are not conducive to business in Nigeria.
To encourage FDI, citizens should respect Nigeria’s various laws. Poor electricity, violence, criminal activity, kidnappings, and counterfeit products are problems in Nigeria that serve to undermine the efficacy of trade activities.
How do you compare the governance model in Brazil and Nigeria….what lessons are in Parana that Nigerian states can learn from?
Brazil is a federal republic and multi-party system with possibility of vice (president, governor and mayor) from different parties. It comprises 26 states plus the district capital. The legislative body comprises the senate (81 senators elected for a single term of 8 years and the House of Deputies, 516 members elected for a single term of 4 years). The number of deputies from each state is in proportion to the state’s population. Voting is compulsory for citizens of 16 years old and above.
Nigeria has the federal government and multi-party system with same vice-president, governor and local government chairperson from the same party. It is composed of 36 states, which share sovereignty with the federal government and one federal capital territory administered solely by the federal government.
The legislative body, the senate, consists of 109 members; the 36 states are each divided into 3 senatorial districts each electing one senator while the FCT elects only one senator. The House of Representatives has 360 members, elected for four-year single terms. Voting is not compulsory for those 18 years old and above.
Despite different political parties’ affiliations, all local government areas have their autonomy and generate their internal revenues which contribute to development in the state of Parana.