Buhari seeks increase in trade diversification with Portugal


By Ismaila Chafe

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Lisbon called for an increase in the volume of trade with Portugal as well as diversification to non-oil products.

A statement by the President’s spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, on Thursday in Abuja, said the president made the call at a Seminar between Nigeria and Portugal businesses during a State Visit to Portugal.

According to the Nigerian leader, the two countries are in dire need of new investment opportunities following the devastation on global economies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and, in recent times, the impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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He said: ‘‘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 dollars 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.”

While assuring the Portuguese government of Nigeria’s support to Portuguese companies wishing to invest in the country, Buhari said:

“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 connecting Kano in Northern Nigeria to Maradi in Southern Niger Republic.

He added this partnership would surely 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,” he said.

He recounted that in 2021, the African Export-Import Bank and Portugal’s National Association of Young Entrepreneurs announced a three-year partnership to promote Africa’s fashion apparel and textile manufacturing industry.

Buhari said: “I strongly believe this will benefit Nigeria’s vibrant fashion industry.”

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

“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.

“I want to assure you that we will take these requests seriously and our response will be swift,” said Buhari.

On his expectations for the forum, the president expressed confidence that it was an appropriate platform to establish and strengthen business relationships, share valuable experience, and collaborate for both countries’ mutual benefit.

“Nigeria and Portugal share long historical ties. The relationship between our two countries brought with it trade partnerships, an area that we wish to build upon today,” he said.

Buhari thanked President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal, who was present at the Seminar, for his contribution, interest and trust in forging formidable economic cooperation between Nigeria and Portugal.

‘‘As I mentioned earlier our two countries have a long, shared history and we now have the power to ensure the next 500 years is built on mutual prosperity, sustainability and greatness,” he said.

In his response, Rebelo de Sousa told President Buhari that Portugal could 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, the sea and we want to cooperate with you.

“We have experienced companies, 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.” (NAN)

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