BusinessDay

Buhari creates ‘work group’ to strengthen Nigeria-Portugal trade

President Muhammadu Buhari says he has created a dedicated Portugal Working Group headed by the minister of industry, trade and investment to address special areas of concerns by investors

The group is expected to work with Portuguese investors, address concerns on existing policies and help boost the volume of trade with Portugal as well as diversify into non-oil products.

The president stated this at an economic seminar between Nigeria and Portugal businesses during a state visit to Portugal, on Thursday, in Lisbon, as part of his engagements.

Buhari observed that the two countries were in dire need of new investment opportunities following the devastation to global economies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and, in recent times, the impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict.

‘‘The relationship between modern Nigeria and Portugal started over 40 years ago with strong collaborations on the diplomatic and defence fronts.

‘‘I was very excited to learn of the increased level of enthusiasm Portuguese businesses have shown towards Nigeria.

‘‘In the past 25 years, trade between Nigeria and Portugal has more than doubled to over $1 billion by 2020 just before the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been mostly in the oil and gas sector. Although this is great progress, I strongly believe we can and should do a lot more,’’ he said.

He also assured the Portuguese government of Nigeria’s support to Portuguese companies wishing to invest in the country.

‘‘The Portuguese were the first European voyagers on record to visit the shores of Nigeria in the late fifteenth century. And just like how African culture is influential in modern Portugal, the Portuguese culture is also felt in today’s Nigeria.’’

He announced that recently, the government of Nigeria awarded a contract to Mota-Engil, a Portuguese company, to construct a railway line that connects Kano in Northern Nigeria to Maradi in the Southern Niger Republic.

He believed that this partnership would open doors for more Portuguese companies to come to Nigeria, as the largest and most populous economy in Africa.

‘‘Just two months ago, Portugal opened its first North Africa Trade Chamber. This will complement the Chamber in South Africa.

‘‘I am confident after your interactions today on the tremendous potential in Nigeria, we will soon be hearing an announcement on the opening of the Nigeria Portugal Trade Chamber.’’

Recounting that in 2021, the African Export-Import Bank and Portugal’s National Association of Young Entrepreneurs announced a 3-year partnership to promote Africa’s fashion apparel and textile manufacturing industry, the Nigerian leader said:

‘‘I strongly believe this will benefit Nigeria’s vibrant fashion industry.’’

President Buhari also used the occasion to apprise prospective investors of the many fiscal, trade and monetary incentives that support foreign investments.

Read also: Buhari to visit Portugal, attend UN Ocean Conference

‘The Nigerian government officials in this room are on standby to provide all the necessary information you need.

‘‘I have already directed the establishment of a dedicated Portugal Working Group headed by the ministry of industry, trade and investment to address any special concerns you may have above and beyond the existing policies in place,” he said, adding that ‘‘I want to assure you that we will take these requests seriously and our response will be swift.’’

In his response, the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told Buhari that Portugal can help Nigeria diversify the economy.

“Because we are a very small country, we have huge experience. We have experience in water supply, technology, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, tourism, agriculture, science, health care, trade, and the sea, we want to cooperate with you. We have experienced companies and experienced hands. We have a unique knowledge of Africa,” he said.

On the visit, the Portuguese president said, “Your visit is a new beginning, A new beginning of every sector. We don’t want 30 or 100 companies, we want thousands of companies in Nigeria, we want thousands of Portuguese in Nigeria and that will be your legacy, my legacy, the legacy of this state visit. I’ll be going to Nigeria later on and together we shall see with our own eyes what the outcome of this visit is. This is not a visit of words but a visit of facts and achievements. We will achieve.”

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