Lekan F todu
With an enviable bilateral relationship that predates Nigeria’s independence in 1960 and trade transactions currently valued at $30bn, it is absolutely a matter of necessity for Nigeria and Norway to strengthen their strategic partnership and take it to greater heights.
Like many Nigerians, I have observed that, and wondered why, in most cases of Nigeria’s bilateral relations and engagements with other countries, Nigeria is almost always the less active. While the other party strives to deepen value and gains from the joint agreements, Nigeria sits idly by, perhaps, waiting for someone to hold her hands for a walk.
Despite Nigeria’s characteristic lethargy however, some of its forthright international allies would stop at nothing to arouse the country from its slumber.
Evidently, Norway is one of such countries. The country has been demonstrating tremendous concern and support for a better future for Nigeria and galvanising enormous potential opportunities that both countries can benefit from as trade partners.
Beyond that, the European country has seen the amazing capacity of Nigerians in diverse sectors. So it is working to broaden and solidify its relationship with Nigerian private sector players as catalysts for shared prosperity and progress.
The recent appointment of accomplished Nigerian entrepreneur, Mr. Taofik Adegbite, as Norway’s Consul General to Nigeria is one of the highly commendable efforts of a nation serious about business and appreciative of talents.
Adegbite, the CEO of a leading oil services company in Nigeria, Marine Platforms, is one of Nigeria’s excellent economic players breaking barriers of foreign opportunities and partnerships and charting a new course for aspiring entrepreneurs.
He’s an outstanding non-state actor that is helping to reposition Nigeria’s diplomatic and international relations on accounts of his noble deeds. Adegbite is arguably the most recognisable Nigerian businessman by Norway particularly on the back of the remarkable volume of transactions he has facilitated with the country and his company’s exemplary corporate governance culture.
As we know, the countries of the West have always proven to be masters of human resources recognition and management. That’s the reason many nations of Europe and America remain reference points for human advancement and exploits. As such Norway’s honour done to one of our own is a deft public diplomatic endeavour by a nation that never ceases to improve its international profile. It is also a worthy recognition of excellence capable of engendering better performance.
It now behoves Nigeria to begin to look up to examples as this so as to level up in its relationship with the outside world in terms of capacity and profits. But is she willing to?
The Nigerian-Norwegian Chambers of Commerce (NNCC) headed by the pragmatic and brilliant Nigerian businessman, Mr. Chijioke Igwe, is described as a “bilateral Chamber of Commerce established to promote the best of partnerships between commercial, social and cultural interests, primarily but not exclusively, across both Nigeria and Norway.”
Curious to know the level of interests driven by both countries on the level playing field provided by the NNCC? The answer lies in the volume of trade from Norway to Nigeria as against what Nigeria brings to the table.
However, it is out of the need to unlock greater opportunities between both nations and to essentially encourage Nigeria to expand its trade with Norway that the Norwegian embassy, NNCC and Innovation Norway recently organised a business roundtable.
Expectedly, the strategic event, which is a stakeholders’ meeting to present and promote the investment opportunities and incentives in Norway to Nigerian investors in Lagos, presented another important avenue for critical decision makers and stakeholders to deliberate on ideas and solutions to move the partnership between the two countries forward.
Like most Nigerians, a major concern for the Norwegian ambassador to Nigeria, Jens-Petter Kjemprud, is the issue of insecurity that is killing several economic activities in our country.
Though he affirmed that Norway is considering increasing investments in Nigeria’s oil and gas and expressed his country’s interest in the Nigeria’s power sector, more effort should be put into stemming the tide of insecurity by the Nigerian government.
“You need to have renewable energy take root in this country, you need to have the incentive not disincentives. The sector needs to be well regulated, organised and you have to attract investors. There is still a huge hydro power potential in Nigeria; we seem to have forgotten about that. We also have solar and wind power but the wind power cannot thrive because of insecurity.
“You cannot have wind power in the Gulf of Guinea if pirates are threatening ships. So it is about incentives and providing security.
“This is why we brought some of the most important business actors from Norway – Innovation Norway, Nigerian Norwegian Chambers of Commerce, our new Consul General and the embassy – to get together as strong as possible to show what can be done in trade between both countries”, he said.
Any Nigerian who goes through the daily grit and overwhelming demands of operating businesses in Nigeria will easily connect with the view of the Norwegian Ambassador.
And more reasonably, they can easily see through the interventions of the new Norwegian Consul General to Nigeria, Adegbite, who said the Federal Government needs to provide all the necessary support for private sector players to unlock greater opportunities in the maritime sector; and strengthen the environment for businesses and bilateral relationships to get stronger.
“Many Nigerians have proven themselves and demonstrated excellent capacity through the instrumentality of the local content law in the oil and gas industry. That is a valid example that with the necessary support and proper frameworks the country can gain more from other sectors like the marine and its allied areas. There is a lot for both Norway and Nigeria to benefit from each other as trade allies with long history of engagement. But more can be achieved within an environment that is very conducive for Nigeria’s foreign partners and allies to operate”, he said.
All the foregoing notwithstanding, little, if anything, would change unless the Nigerian government takes the bull by the horn and rises up to the many challenges the international community throws at her in terms of their handling of international business relations. Let’s hope it does.