Recently, Promexico Regional Director to Africa, Eng. Carlos Sanchez Pavon, was on a three -day visit to Nigeria. The main purpose of his visit was to promote trade, investment and collaboration between Nigeria and Mexico. Yemi Akinsuyi writes on what Nigeria stands to gain from the business deal.
Blessed with an abundance of natural resources, vast arable land, a temperate climate and a teeming population of young vibrant people, Nigeria has the potentials to be one of the biggest economies in the world. But this was not going to be as the country, has been relying solely on crude oil. The thought of black gold, as popularly called by Ghanaians, occupied the minds of our past leaders, and as a result did not pay the required attention to diversifying the economy. They couldn’t just think of any other means of money making for the government.
This trend continued till the advent of last administration, which introduced non-oil export to the sole list of crude oil exportation. Federal Government, in its efforts at ensuring that other products, which Nigeria has added advantages on, are on the list of products for exportation.
The Mr. Olusegun Awolowo-led Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) introduced sesame seed, sorghum, shea butter, and other non-oil products on the exportation list. To say that this addition is a plus to the nation’s economy is for the economic team led by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo to decide.
Recently, Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Audu Ogbe announced the government’s plan to export yam to other countries of the world. This plan has been greeted with diverse kinds of complaints. While some said Nigeria should first concentrate on feeding her vast hungry populace, some maintain that the Ministry of Agriculture should first encourage farmers by providing adequate inputs so as to get much more tubers of yam in the next harvest season for both local and international use.
While this was still on, the Federal , working with the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry, came up with the exportation of hibiscus, otherwise known as zobo in the local parlance.
In order to perfect this plan, the Mexican government, through the Pro-Mexico Regional Director for Trade and Business to Africa, Eng. Carlos Sanchez Pavon, and his team, paid a three- day visit to both Lagos and Abuja for roundtable business discussions with major key players and stakeholders in agribusiness. Other areas of Mexican business interest include infrastructure development, entertainment, energy and services.
Pavon said the main purpose of his visit was to promotxsxe trade, investment and collaboration between both countries, which will support the Nigerian government’s initiative to create jobs, improve infrastructure and the general economic agenda of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Working with the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Embassy of Mexico, Pavon held business talks with Nigerian Federal Government officials, State Senior officials of the Lagos State Government, members of the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry and invited business organizations. With over 40 years of diplomatic relations with Nigeria, Mexico is keen to partner with Nigeria to further boost trade relations across different sectors.
Working with the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by Mr. Bayo Adeyemo and the Embassy of Mexico, the Envoy said both Lagos and Abuja had been strategically positioned to have roundtable business discussions with major players and stakeholders in critical sectors: agribusiness, infrastructure development, entertainment, energy and services. The visit also sought to consolidate the bilateral trade agreement earlier signed and championed by the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Bancomex (Mexico’s Foreign Trade Bank) on behalf of the NEXIM bank amongst others.
The first visit, which started in Lagos with a business dinner with senior state government officials of Lagos State, followed by a round table business discussion in the above mentioned sectors at the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry office and a one-on-one business session with heads of business in these sectors.
The Abuja birthed the discussion on the vantage positioning of Nigeria as the ultimate business destination. Hibiscus, popularly known as Zobo surfaced on the roundtable discussion list and prompt, the Mexican businessmen grabbed it with their already spread out hands.
According to Pavon, exportation of zobo to Mexico will afford the Mexican business moguls the opportunity of producing hibiscus drink, syrups, juice and other products from it.
Unlike the proposed exportation of yam tubers, which is still generating controversies in the country, zobo exportation has been greeted with high accolade as the country has more than enough for local use and obviously for export. The two countries are already fine-tuning the modalities involved in the exportation procedure. Although, Mexico is interested in other Nigerian products, the one that is much more attractive to the country is Zobo, which is expected for exportation to Mexico any moment from now.
Pavon, who disclosed that the trade volume between Nigeria and Mexico has grown by 360 per cent from 166.5 million dollars in 2012 to 600 million dollars in 2016 said with the introduction of hibiscus, the trade volume will experience multiple growth.
Speaking on the trade volume, which is one of the sidelines of the roundtable for working business discussion on trade mission to Mexico organised by the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NMCCI) and Mexican Embassy, Pavon said although the figure may be small but in reality, it is a huge transaction that we have in the last 15 years, which was then 45 million dollars. He said what that means is that it has grown more than 500 times in 15 years and our aim and goal is to ensure it grows more.
“There are some similarity between Nigeria and Mexico, we are predominantly largest and young population and we are about power house of our region just as Nigeria in Africa,” he said.
According to him, Mexico sees Nigeria as a natural spring board to stand for the entire Africa and main goal is to make sure that Nigeria is known as number one economy in Africa. He said that the major challenge in the relationship between the two countries was that they did not know each other well.
“We do not know each other, Mexico is known for drugs while Nigeria is known for Boko Haram and other social vices. But there is much more than that, what is most important in building the relationship is to know each other better. Once we know that Mexico is more than drug cartel and baron, Nigeria is much more than a small group in the north causing trouble,” he said.
According to him, if we know ourselves better the business people could sit down and start discussing potential businesses for the future.
Speaking at the roundtable, the Vice President of NMCCI, Dr Chukwuemeka Elele, said that the Chamber was launched in December 2014 as part of efforts to further strengthen the bilateral trade relations, between the two countries. He said the chamber had organised its first trade mission to Mexico in May 2015 with 35 Nigerian entrepreneurs participating.
The trade mission, he said, had given birth to a lot of successful firms in Nigeria today in term of export to Mexico, saying that there was a lot for Nigeria to gain in business relationship with Mexico.
Elele said Mexico Business Summit was coming up October 2017 and urged Nigerian businessmen to take advantage of the opportunities in Mexico. According to him, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Nigerian Export Promotion Council and the Nigerian Export-Import Bank also participated in the trade mission.
“These three organisations signed Memoranda of Understanding with their counterparts in Mexico to promote bilateral trade, investment, joint ventures and strategic alliances. These agreements have created opportunities for business in Mexico. We are looking at what each country can gain from each other; we are not looking at one sided economy but a mutually beneficial relationship, he said.
He said that before now 80 per cent of Mexico’s revenue used to come from oil just like Nigeria and 20 per cent from manufacturing sector.
“However, today they have changed the equation, only 20 per cent of their revenue comes from oil and 80 per cent comes from manufacturing. And today the economy is doing very well and Nigeria is now treading the same path, understanding the fact that mono economy is dangerous; we can learn a lot from Mexico,” he said.
Representing the NIPC boss at the roundabout, a Deputy Director in the Commission, Mrs. Aisha Wando promised the Commission’s readiness to work with the Mexico in ensuring that there will be free-flow of the exportation of hibiscus and other non-oil products.
Wando said already, NIPC has put in place all needed and functional template for free flow of exportation of non-oil products for both local and international businessmen and women.
On its part, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NIPC, promised to keep encouraging international business through exportation by ensuring that there is ease of doing business for them. Represented by the Deputy Director, International Export Office, Mrs. Uduak Etokowoh, the Council will make available speedy operational export opportunity for the exportation of non-oil products in Nigeria.