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Nigeria-Brazil business relations: the journey so far speech delivered by the Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil H. E. Vincent A. Okoedion at the Nigeria-Brazil business summit
Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil, 13-15 august 2013

It gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone, on behalf of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, H. E. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to this Business Summit. In a special way, I want to welcome Nigerian officials and business leaders who have come all the way from home to attend this Business Summit.

2. The Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, would have been here himself, but he could not because he had to accompany the Nigerian President whose visit to another country coincided with the dates of this Business Forum. I came from home yesterday and the Minister asked me to explain his absence to his Brazilian counterpart, Mr. Fernando Pimentel.

3. The first edition of this Business Forum was held about two years ago. The present second edition is being held under the theme, “Gauging the Advancement of Nigeria-Brazil Business Relations: A Retrospect and Prospect“. I want to commend the efforts of Mr. Olusegun Akinruli, the President of Nigeria-Brazil Centre for Business in Belo Horizonte, who is a co-organizer of this event. Mr. Akinruli works closely with the Nigerian Embassy in promoting the flow of trade and investment between Nigeria and Brazil. Due to his success in this assignment, early this year, he was appointed to represent the Embassy as Honorary Liaison Officer in the State of Minas Gerais. He is an illustrious son of Nigeria. We are proud of his dedication to the cause of business, and more business, between Nigeria and Brazil.

4. Furthermore, I want to pay tribute to two Brazilian trade institutions. These are the Federation of the Industries of the State of Sao Paulo, FIESP, and ApexBrazil. The Nigerian Embassy maintains excellent relations with these organizations. In the case of FIESP, it has always been keen to open its doors to the Embassy, and at our request, to organize events which give Nigerian officials, business owners and traders the platform to interact with their counterparts in Brazil. In the case of ApexBrazil, it has on many occasions invited the Embassy to participate and take advantage of trade fairs, exhibition and conferences held in Brazil. I want to use this opportunity, not only to commend ApexBrazil, but also to advise this notable trade promotion institution, to support Brazilian SMEs to participate in trade fairs organized in Nigeria. As information in this regard, the Abuja International Trade Fair is organized in September while the Lagos International Trade Fair is organized in November. Through the support of ApexBrazil, Brazilian companies could be encouraged and assisted to show-case their products in Nigeria, and introduce Brazilian products to the Nigerian markets.

5 Today, Nigeria is Brazil’s biggest trading partner in Africa. In 2003, trade between the two countries amounted to USD2 billion. It increased to USD8 billion in 2011. It reached an impressive turnover of USD12 billion in 2012. What are the products that are exchanged between the two countries? In the case of Nigeria, the exports to Brazil consist mainly of crude oil and related products. In the case of Brazil, the products are mainly industrial goods, such as automobile and spare parts, as well as some agricultural products such as rice and sugar. But there are prospects for the expansion of this trade. In the case of Nigeria, it is our desire to export not just crude oil to Brazil but also, non-oil products. We believe that there is a market in Brazil for Nigerian made goods such as fashion wears, books written by Nigerian authors translated to Portuguese and even Nigerian food items that are consumed in Brazil, including yams, plantain and cassava flour. In other words, Nigeria is ready to take advantage of its cultural affinity with the Brazilian people to diversify and increase the range of goods and services it exports to Brazil.

6. I must also mention that there is a market in Brazil for Nigerian films. In this connection, let me point out that Nigeria has the third largest film industry in the world called Nollywood, after Hollywood and Bollywood.

7. In the last two years, there has been strong re-engagement between Nigeria and Brazil in the area of trade and investment. The Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment has made three visits to Brazil since last year. He has been here on assignments to promote business relations with Brazil. On two occasions, he was here to hold meetings with Brazilian companies and investors. In April this year, he was here to hold discussion with his Brazilian counterpart. In one of these visits, he signed an MOU with Eletrobras, to enable this major Brazilian company to participate in projects in the Nigerian power sector. In June last year, many Brazilian CEOs and investors converged in this city to receive the Nigerian President and to discuss doing business in Nigeria at a landmark business forum. Since that event, many Brazilian companies have visited Nigeria. A few of them have since set up offices in Nigeria.
8. It is recalled that the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, came to Nigeria on a State Visit in February this year. What was remarkable about this visit was that she came with a large business delegation. Also remarkable was that it led to a ground-breaking MOU that established a relationship of Strategic Partnership between Nigeria and Brazil. The MOU established the first ever high-level Strategic Dialogue between Nigeria and Brazil. The inaugural meeting of this Strategic Dialogue will be held in Brasilia in November this year. The meeting will be an occasion to discuss the expansion of trade relations between Nigeria and Brazil.

9. In the last two years, one of the strategies that the Embassy has used was to encourage the exchange of trade delegations between Nigeria and Brazil. The Embassy has encouraged many Brazilian companies to visit Nigeria so that they could prospect for business. More important, so that they could be exposed to the opportunities available in sectors such as oil and gas, construction, agric-business, electricity generation, manufacturing, mining as well as trade and tourism. It was to this end that ANDRADE GUTIERREZ and QUEIROS GALVAO, two notable Brazilian infrastructure conglomerates, visited Nigeria in August 2012. Since then, Andrade Gutierrez has gone ahead to establish itself as a player in the Nigerian market. There are other Brazilian companies that have since followed the footstep of Andrade Gutierrez.

10. Furthermore, in March 2013, in my capacity as Ambassador, I led a 3o-man Nigerian trade delegation to the Cotrijal International Agribusiness Trade Fair in Rio Grande do Sul. In May 2013, the government of the State of Rio Grande do Sul reciprocated by organizing a special trade Mission to Nigeria, the first ever by any Brazilian state. I have mentioned these exchanges of trade delegations as instances of the bold and practical steps that were taken on both sides to expand and consolidate the business relations between Nigeria and Brazil.

11. I want to inform this forum that some of the constraints that impeded trade and investment between Nigeria and Brazil in the past are now being removed. One of the most important of these constraints was the absence of direct flight between Nigeria and Brazil. The airspace between Nigeria and Brazil was closed when Varig, a Brazilian airline, stopped its service to Nigeria in 1994. The stoppage of this air service was a big blow to business owners particularly, traders on both sides. Since that time, travel from Brazil to Nigeria and vice versa had become an uphill task for business owners in the two countries. It entails spending one or two nights on the way. Also, many people could not afford the exorbitant fares. All these affected in no small way the expansion of travel, trade, tourism and investment between the two countries.

12. Today, the good news is that there are airlines in both Nigeria and Brazil ready to commence air services on the Nigeria-Brazil air route. In the case of Nigeria, ArikAir will take advantage of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) that was created in 2005 to fly from Lagos to Sao Paulo. In the case of Brazil, GOL airlines will operate a service from Recife in Northeast Brazil to Lagos, in Nigeria. Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to imagine the relief that the restoration of direct flight will bring to business owners and traders in Brazil and in Nigeria. Let me also say this, that Nigeria and Brazil are the biggest economies in their respective regions, that is, West Africa and South America. Therefore, the resumption of direct flight between the two countries will mean a lot in terms of opening the markets of the two regions.

13. Recently, Nigeria and Brazil took an important step to remove a significant stumbling block in the way of business relations between the two countries. They both approved for a Nigerian Consulate to be opened in Sao Paulo. The new Mission will not only look after the welfare of Nigerians in that part of Brazil, more important for our meeting today, the Consulate will become the second after the Embassy in Brasilia, and the most important center where Brazilians would receive visas, to facilitate their travel to Nigeria as well as their business with Nigeria. Nigeria appreciates the fact that Sao Paulo is not only the hub of business activities in Brazil; the city is also the center of business for the whole of the South America region. In view of this, the new Nigerian Consulate in Sao Paulo will also handle trade enquiries, and provide information to Brazilians on doing business in Nigeria, and how to enter the Nigerian market.

14. Brazilian companies have a lot to benefit from the Nigeria emerging market. Nigeria has the highest population in Africa. The country has 167 million people including a middle class of over 40 million. In the past five years, the economy has posted an average GDP growth of over 7%. The present government of President Goodluck Jonathan has reviewed incentives regime towards developing sector- specific national policies on investment, through the creation of an enabling environment that will engender efficiency, productivity and profitability.

15. Nigeria and Brazil have over the years developed strong business relationship which can be attested to by the presence of Petrobras in Nigeria since 1996. Nigeria alone accounted for more than half of all Brazilian imports from Africa in 2010. I wish to congratulate the government of Brazil for the formation of the “Africa Group” in November 2011, and for instituting financial mechanisms to assist Brazilian companies wanting to transact business in Africa. I wish to re-assure you, our business partners in Brazil that the Nigerian government is fully in support of our endeavour towards attracting business and investment to Nigeria. The government is also committed to the creation of favourable and conducive atmosphere for the thriving of further economic activities between Nigeria and Brazil.

16. I want to use this opportunity to extend my profound appreciation to all participants and to invite you to rekindle your interest and resolve to invest in Nigeria by joining me on a scheduled visit to Nigeria as the guests of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment on dates convenient for you. This would afford your organization the opportunity to assess the strength of the Nigerian market and have the opportunity to open discussion with government officials as well as operators of businesses.

17. Thank you for your attention.

Embassy of Nigeria
Brasilia/DF - Brazil
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