Timely Conclusion of Pending
A Key to strengthened bilateral trade between Korea and Nigeria
The following is a written interview with Nigerian Ambassador Abba A. Tijjani on the occasion of its upcoming Republic Day - Ed.
Question: Could you explain the significance of East Asia region in Nigeria's international trade and what status does Korea have in it?
Answer: The importance of the countries of East Asia to Nigeria's trade & Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) particularly South Korea, Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, among others, with huge foreign exchange reserves amounting to trillions of dollars, gigantic market, about half of the entire human population and growing advances in technology can hardly be quantified. The region is becoming the fastest economically developing area of the world - the centre of gravity of sorts for world commerce and investment with the potential to overtake Europe and the USA respectively in world trade in future.
On the face of such changes, South Korea as the world's 10th biggest economy is also rapidly becoming a major strategic economic player in the world. In this respect, Korea's new landmark investments in Nigeria's oil and gas sector and the proposed consequential investments in railways rehabilitation, shipyard establishment, gas-pipeline construction, management of refinery and possibly in petrochemical is raising the country's economic profile in the Nigerian market place.
These new investments are besides the growing and deeper penetration of the Nigerian consumer market by such economic giants as LG and Samsung as well as KIA and Hyundai with their consumer products including mobile phones, electronic products and home appliances as well as automobiles. I am also delighted to mention a recent report which suggests that KIA is planning to set up an assembly plant in Nigeria. In this regard, it is my sincere hope that the assembly plant will be a prelude to the establishment of other bona fide manufacturing plants that would harness Nigeria's local resources and generate employment for the citizenry.
Q: What is your comment on the overall economic and political cooperation between the two countries?
A: The level of politico-economic co-operation between the two countries as well as co-operation in other areas such as in diplomacy, including in international fora are splendid, to say the least.
There is no doubt that the intimacy and the level of co-operation is increasing rapidly. For example, bilateral trade last year increased to over $1 billion while this year alone, there has been exchanges of several visits by officials of the two countries, among which is the visit to Korea by Ambassador Olu Adeniji, Foreign Minister of Nigeria last March. The Minister was received in audience by President Roh Moo-Hyun and also had constructive discussions with his Korean counterpart, Ban Ki-Moon, on bilateral issues.
Moreover, only recently, as I mentioned earlier, giant Korean companies such as KEPCO, POSCO, Korea National Oil Company and Daewoo Construction and Engineering made a new foray into the Nigerian oil and gas industry. These companies succeeded in getting a total of four oil blocks with a capacity of over 2 billion barrels of crude oil. In return, they are expected to make over $8 billion investment in such areas as the establishment of shipyard, railways, gas pipeline construction and refinery management. These are sustainable investments that are, with good management, expected to expand with consequential multiplier effects, thereby helping to consolidate the relations between the two countries as the foreign policies of the two countries are more economic than political these days.
Q: What would you suggest to strengthen the bilateral trade of the two countries?
A: The bilateral trade of the two countries could be strengthened through the official commitment and dedication by both countries to that goal including the conclusion of all outstanding economic related legal instruments.
Similarly, Korean companies should continue to avail themselves of other investment opportunities in Nigeria and make solid commitments accordingly, for instance, by opening factories and plants as opposed to merely selling finished products. For example Nigeria has more gas than oil with about 187 trillion cubic feet reserve of the product and Korea is the world? No. 1 importer of gas. Therefore, Korea can look into long-term gas purchase agreement with Nigeria aimed at strengthening bilateral trade.
Equally, as my Embassy continues to do its best to issue visas to Korean business people within 24 hours, I will urge measures to be effected in a manner that the issuance of visas to Nigerians willing to come to Korea for business transactions should be quicker and more liberalized, while turning back Nigerians businessmen with valid visas at the point of entry in Incheon Airport should be discarded completely. nw
Nigerian Ambassador Abba A. Tijjani