Mary Ojulari: EuroCham Promotes Trade Investment Between Nigeria and Europe
Mrs. Mary Ojulari is the Managing Director at Weststar Associates Limited (Mercedes-Benz Nigeria) and President of the European Business Chamber, EuroCham. As EuroCham President, she works with the directors of the Chamber to execute the association’s objectives and provide value to member companies. She speaks to Samuel Ajayi on how 19 European companies launched the Chamber and why the government has to do something about insecurity to ease the process of doing business in the country
The European Business Chamber, EuroCham, was recently welcomed by the Nigerian business community. Tell us about entry into Nigeria and the role of the EuroCham Nigeria.
The European Business Chamber, EuroCham, was launched in Lagos by 19 European companies on the 4th of October, 2018. EuroCham’s primary role is to actively promote trade investment and exchanges between European and Nigerian businesses, raise awareness and present recommendations on particular issues of interest or concern to the organisation and its members
In order to achieve its objectives, EuroCham has set up four working groups that assess and review specific subject areas affecting members’ business operations and organise strategic avenues for members to engage with stakeholders and experts, ensuring the success of all members in their various businesses.
There are currently four working groups: 1. the Finance Working Group, which deals with all matters relating to finance, foreign exchange matters, and taxation; 2. the Trading Across Borders Working Group which deals with matters relating to the import and export of goods; 3. the Sustainability Working Group which deals with issues relating to the impact of the EU Green Deal and carbon neutrality initiatives (net-zero); and more recently; the Human Resources and Skills Development Working Group. This working group has been set up to address key issues relating to human resources and the skills gap that we are currently experiencing in Nigeria as a consequence of the brain drain.
The concept of this chamber and its activities still seem quite foreign in Nigeria. Why is this so and what actions are being taken to help Nigerian businesses see you as the eyes, ears, and voice of the business community at EU level?
The EuroCham will be four years old in October 2022, which may be why it is considered fairly new. In these four years, however, the EuroCham has sought to actively promote trade, investment, and exchanges between European and Nigerian businesses and the governments of various levels in Nigeria. EuroCham facilitates engagement between its members and high-level stakeholders in Nigeria to gain insight into policy developments in the country. These high-level stakeholders’ engagement enables the EuroCham to present the challenges faced by European businesses, resulting in better business policies that are beneficial to European businesses operating in Nigeria.
To promote the EuroCham at the business community to the EU level, the EuroCham continuously engages with experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to examine policies and how these policies affect European businesses in Nigeria. Having established this objective, the EuroCham is working as an organisation to unite the voice of European companies in Nigeria, in terms of presenting issues faced by the EuroCham members while conducting business in Nigeria; disseminate information promptly to its members; promote investment of European businesses in Nigeria; collate and present the influence of European trade volume to relevant authorities and support emerging European businesses in Nigeria, amongst other roles.
Nigeria has a huge population, which is good for business. The government has also put structures in place to support the ease of doing business, and public-private partnerships are one of the results of these efforts. How has the combination of this growing population and structures propelled investment in the country and socio-economic development?
A huge youth population is good for economic growth. In order to benefit from a growing population and translate that into economic growth, the government has to ensure that there is improved infrastructure and timely response to policies that would enhance trade and investment and, therefore, attract more foreign investments. The huge youth population means that labour is available; we can begin to have the conversation around the level of skills available, but creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive is the first step to ensuring that as a government you remain attractive to investment.
The government continues to encourage public-private partnerships and a good illustration of this is the Jubilee Fellows Scheme, a youth empowerment program between the Federal Government and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), guaranteed to train 20,000 youths and absorb them into the Nigerian workforce. In addition to the training program, more than half of the EuroCham members have pledged to absorb these skilled youths after they have completed their training under the scheme.
How many European businesses has EuroCham influenced and how much European business investments in Nigeria has the association facilitated?
EuroCham started with a membership strength of 19 companies but today, we can boast of 50 companies that are a part of the organisation. The impact of EuroCham is quite immense and to showcase our contributions, we are working with an independent financial firm to develop the EU Mapping Survey which will show the value of European companies to the Nigerian economy over a predefined period. The survey will cover areas of interest including the level of investments, investment climate, job creation, standards of operation, people development, environmental and social contribution. We want the government, policymakers, and influencers; the people who are the major stakeholders, to be able to see at a glance what the EuroCham has achieved as well as create a picture of what the EU companies seek to achieve in the future. The Survey is set to launch by the last quarter of the year and will be available to the press. It would be wonderful to be able to present to the world, in one document, our influence. And I tell you, it is quite huge.
Can you share examples of some of these businesses and in what capacity you facilitated their contribution to the development of the commerce landscape in Nigeria?
The achievements of the EuroCham member companies and their contributions to the Nigerian economy are enormous. Some notable projects of EuroCham members include: Fan Milk Danone, launching its first model dairy farm, milk collection centre and dairy training institute, in collaboration with the Ogun State Government to partake in the Federal Government’s initiative on dairy backward integration under the National Livestock Transformation Programme to achieve food self-sufficiency.
Siemens AG, launching a 25,000-megawatt Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) to revamp Nigeria’s power sector: SIEMENS AG under the PPI would increase power supply to about 40 million Nigerians. In addition, the government has stated this project would create at least 11,000 direct and indirect jobs in Nigeria.
ENGIE Energy Access Nigeria has launched a 90KW Mini-Grid – their first in Nigeria, in Gbangba, Niger State. ENGIE is working to build another 119 mini-grids around Nigeria. This ambitious target will be very impactful for Nigerian businesses and households and EuroCham is very happy to support these projects in any way it can.
Arla Foods Nigeria, entering into a public-private partnership with the Kaduna State Government, to develop a long-term sustainable dairy industry with local farmers by helping 1,000 small-scale farmers create better livelihoods. Land will be set up for the farmers to permanently base themselves and have opportunities to expand their farms. This collaboration is set to work on a five-year scale period called the Milky Way Partnership to develop a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable dairy value chain.
Recently, Fan Milk, Danone, a member of the Eurocham, inaugurated a model dairy farm to contribute to revolutionising the dairy industry. Tell us more about the investment and EuroCham’s involvement. Should we expect more of such investments from other members of the EuroCham?
Fan Milk Danone has commissioned its model dairy farm and training institute in collaboration with the Ogun State government. This dairy farm which is Danone’s first investment in model dairy farming in Sub-Saharan Africa is aimed to improve the smal-holder farmer and community participation in dairy farming, with a target of 1.4 million producing litres of milk in the next 24 months. We look forward to the impact this model farm will have on the wider agriculture sector, especially development of best practices in dairy farming, regenerative agriculture and milk collection for local farmers.
The dairy project is based on three pillars: The Model Dairy Farm, which will incorporate global best practices in model dairy farming in which other potential dairy farmers can take a cue from to be and can be replicated across Nigeria in the nearest future; the Dairy Training Institute, which is targeted at training and empowering local farmers in the Odeda community; and the Milk Collection Centre and out-growers Scheme: which will have a social impact on the host community as the biggest dairy hub in the South-Western region of Nigeria.
I was present for the commissioning of this project and I saw firsthand, cows being milked. It was such a satisfying experience and knowing that Nigeria will now be capable of producing her milk, and will control all stages of the milk production process just makes this even more significant. The great potential of this model when this is replicated across the country will be immense.
Fan Milk-Danone’s project is highly commendable and EuroCham was proud and glad to be part of such a historic moment. This is one of the things we do as an organisation: we are visible and on the front row, cheering on our members as they embark on transformational projects.
How has the spate of insecurity across the country affected members of EuroCham Nigeria? To what extent does this discourage business and the results you hope to achieve as an organisation?
One of Nigeria’s most critical challenges is security. The issue of insecurity in Nigeria has not only claimed numerous lives but is also posing a gigantic economic and social problem for the government and people of Nigeria. Insecurity has affected many sectors of society; from transportation to trade and investment, infrastructure, and production amongst others. Farmers and producers are unable to safely transport their goods from one point to another. This poses a huge problem for the economic development of any country and has adversely affected our EuroCham members.
Another point that affects our members is the number of resources our companies have to dedicate to providing security logistics for personnel, especially in some parts of the country where insecurity seems to be the highest. The increased resources are an additional cost to the companies where these companies are struggling to keep the prices of their goods as low as possible.
What’s the volume of European businesses in Nigeria and what is the level of impact of these businesses on the Nigerian people?
The mutual benefits between Nigerian and European businesses are immense. According to the Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, Ambassador Samuela Isopi, the European Union is Nigeria’s largest trading partner for oil and non-oil products with a total trade volume of over €28.7bn in 2021. She also mentioned that the EU accounts for 20.9% of Nigeria’s trade with the world.