From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has called for stronger ties between Nigeria and India.
This was even as Onyeama said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a “game-changer” that is going to be the largest free trade area in the world.
Onyeama made the call during the 7th Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi India where he took part in two-panel discussions with the themes “Out of Africa: Leading on Trade and Economic Integration,” and “Building the Gates of Globalisation: Investment, Infrastructure and Taboos.”
During the panel discussion, Onyeama spoke about the various partnerships for infrastructural development such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and other initiatives with India, the European Union, and other African countries, all of which he said, contribute enormously towards development.
On the sidelines of the 7th Raisina Dialogue which had more than 200 speakers from 90 countries in attendance, Onyeama met separately with his host, the External Affairs Minister of India, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and colleagues from Slovenia and the Philippines to discuss bilateral relations between Nigeria and the different countries.
While in India, Onyeama visited one of India’s largest steel and power plants, addressed and inaugurated the Nigeria-India Business Council with impressive attendance by Indian captains of Industry and interacted with 30 invited African Ambassadors and members of the Nigerian Community including students.
Onyeama further said the AfCFTA will make doing business much easier for countries with seamless access to fifty-four markets which is a huge advantage.
Onyeama said: “Why I say AfCTA is going to be a game-changer is because it will make it easier for our political leaders and Africans to reach out to other African countries. So, what will come as a result or consequences will be infrastructure – the trans-Saharan highway and continental highway across Africa, promoting connectivity and doing business. That will be the natural result of pulling down all the barriers that are preventing this connectivity within the continent.”
Onyeama spoke on the role of Africa in the upcoming world in terms of trade and cooperation and partnerships, especially with Africa’s Asian partners and India as a special partner.
The minister, while sharing his thoughts on how India and Africa can work together to foster further connectivity and commerce, noted that Nigeria and India have had a long history of very close cooperation and people-to-people relations with generations of Indian families living in Nigeria, Nigerian students in India and in the military establishments.
“We know ourselves very well and of course, now in a globalised world, there is a lot more we can do. India has a comparative advantage in the health sector. We saw the role India played in the COVID outbreak. India has a very strong pharmaceutical sector. So, the health field is an area we can do a lot with India. And we’ve seen the ICT miracle that is in Bangalore. Also, the technology capacity of India is another area that we can cooperate in. Nigeria has a very youthful population that is also getting into ICT and extremely dynamic and the partnership with India could absolutely be a game-changer for us.”
Speaking further, Onyeama noted that India is the second-largest producer of steel in the world, saying “We want to industrialise.”
According to Onyeama, “We have had challenges with developing our steel industry in Nigeria. So, that’s another area we can do a lot with India. We have a framework already, although it’s a continental framework of the India-Africa Summit and clearly, we are looking at developing a more precise roadmap that responds to the priorities and needs of our country. We can also look at other areas such as the culture industries. You have Bollywood and we have Nollywood, so there is a great deal we can do together.”
On post-COVID and in the context of Africans’ entry into the global value chain, Onyeama said: “We want to diversify not just our production, but also our partners. Where value chains are concerned, it has always been targeted toward the western countries. But clearly, Asia is a lot more prominent in our engagement and notwithstanding the global challenges of today, we are moving more and more, increasing our partnership with Asia and of course, India is a big part of that as is China and one or two other countries. So, notwithstanding, whatever else is happening globally, we intend to prioritise and push on.”