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Monday, 22 October 2012 09:03

Direct Flight Between Nigeria-Namibia Will Boost Business Opportunities

By Emma Okereh

ABUJA, Nigeria, October 22, 2012 (Leadership) - Nigeria undoubtedly played a prominent role in the realization of Namibia's independence and both countries have political ties. However, at the economic level, not much has been recorded, despite available opportunities. In this interview with Emma Okereh, Mr Ben Gbade Ojo, chairman, Nigeria, Namibia chamber of commerce speaks of efforts put in place to improve trade relations between both countries, assuring that flight challenge will soon be a thing of the past. Excerpts:

 

 

Can you take us through the journey of this association?

Well, some years ago, to be precise, about five years ago, idea came when a friend of mine accompanied me to Windhoek, Namibia. There we were able to have some meetings with the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We also met the Nigerian ambassador to Namibia. He gave us the load down of various business, trade and investment opportunities in Namibia.

 

Well, already we are aware of the trade and investment opportunities in Nigeria. So by the time we were given more information about those investment opportunities in Namibia, then we decided to find out whether it is really true. Then, we went through length and breath of Namibia and we were able to discover that there are enormous opportunities for people that are genuine business people to do genuine business in Namibia.

 

Also, we discover that there are businessmen in Namibia that would ordinarily want to do business in Nigeria, but because they are afraid, they don't know what is happening on ground, because of some of the misinformation here and there about Nigeria.

 

Many of them are seriously afraid of coming down to Nigeria to do business with Nigerians. And so we were able to interact with a few people and then we decided that this is a noble undertaking that by coming together, we should promote trade and investment between the two countries. Namibia is a wonderful place to do business and go for tourism.

 

The same thing applies to Nigeria. In Nigeria, there are a number of tourism attractions, a number of tourist destinations, and then enormous opportunities for people that are serious-minded. So we saw that it would be a noble undertaking if you would get people of like minds together. It was then that we formed the chamber of commerce. That is just the genesis of the whole something.

 

Looking back, apart from this summit, would you say to an extent that you have succeeded in attracting investments in both countries?

Yes, I will say that we are making progress. When we started, it wasn't very easy. I have told you before that people are normally sceptical when they are going to invest in a new environment, where they are not used to. Namibian businessmen are sceptical about Nigerians, the environment, the laws, the regulations.

Also Nigerian businessmen are sceptical about the environment in Namibia. But then we made a lot of progress by talking to many people and many people have visited Namibia, while people from Namibia have visited Nigeria, and a lot of business is taking place now between the two countries. So, I think we are making progress in that regard.

 

At the government level would you say you have been able to influence government of both countries to maybe give some kind of waivers, like if a Nigerian man is going to Namibia you remove some obstacles and vice versa?

Yes, like I said we have gone a long way. We have made a lot of progress. We have been able to get close to the embassy and we made sure that issuance of visas to Nigerians going to Namibia is not a problem. And in most cases the visas come within 24 hours. Sometimes the same day, you get your visas. Most cases, the same day you apply, you get your visa. We have been able to achieve that even from both Nigeria and Namibia. It is easier now to get visa to come to Nigeria.

 

We also discovered that there is this problem of flight. There wasn't a direct flight from Nigeria to Namibia, and vice versa. At a time it was a serious problem. You have to pass through South Africa to go to Namibia. Namibia is very close to South Africa. We started working and at the end of the day, we have been able to make progress along that line. There is already a flight from Accra to Namibia, from Lagos to Accra, and from Accra to Namibia. There was that arrangement before between Air Nigeria and Air Namibia to be able to arrange for flights between Nigeria and Namibia through Ghana.

 

Even now we are making an arrangement whereby early next year, by January next year, there is going to be a direct flight between Nigeria and Namibia. Flights will go from Lagos to Namibia, without going through Accra, and it even possible that flights go from Abuja. By January, I believe we should have a direct flight.

 

What actually is the problem why there can't be direct flights from Nigeria to Namibia at the moment?

It has to do with the airlines. You know for now Nigeria doesn't have a national carrier, but Namibia has a flourishing airline, they are only looking at the profitability. They were not really sure. So we did a lot to convince them we held several meetings in Windhoek, we held meetings in Lagos. Even the managing director of Air Namibia came to Lagos and a number of meetings were held. It was credited to the ambassador.

 

Also we are still working with some major airlines in Nigeria like Air Nigeria and Arik Air. We are looking at the possibility of a Nigerian airlines flying from Lagos or Abuja to Namibia.Talking about business opportunities in the two countries, I want to know exactly those products that are bound in Namibia, which are needed in Nigeria and vice versa? There are so many products in Namibia that Nigerian businessmen ordinarily would want to go and bring into Nigeria, and there are so many materials and products in Nigeria that Namibia businessmen would want to come and exploit and take to Namibia.

 

Let me start from those ones that are in Namibia that would of great benefit to Nigerian businessmen. Let look at fishery. Nigerians eat a lot of fish. In Lagos a lot is being consumed. I can tell you that Namibia has about 800 kilometres coast lines.

 

They have a highly developed fishery environment. So I have spoken to their honourable minister of fishery about getting Nigerians to buy from Namibia.Let's talk about salt. They have salt too. Now it is for us to get Nigerian businessmen to go and buy salt from Namibia. When you talk about cement, they have a flourishing factory, and they have excess capacity.

 

There are so many products. Talk about marbles. I visited some of their facilities for the production of marbles, granites and other building materials, they have a lot. It is endless. They have a lot. So, I believe that the Nigerian businessmen do have a lot of business to do in Namibia, the same thing in Nigeria. Namibia businessmen should also come to Nigeria to invest and do business in Nigeria. We have many business opportunities here.

 

There are high network individuals, and business people that have what it takes to invest any where in the world. Nigeria, I believe if properly presented, should be an investment haven for people that really want to invest, people that want to make profit and want to do business outside their own countries. Nigeria has all it takes, all the resources and has the market for investment.

 

How are we assuring our prospective investors that they won't have problems, especially in the areas of power, security and road?

Investors should not have problems coming to Nigeria to invest. You mentioned power supply, you mentioned security and road. It is true that that some roads in Nigeria are bad, but it is not all the roads. There are some that are still passable. I believe that government is making efforts to work on the roads that are bad. It is a matter of time; those roads are going to be properly constructed. There are bad roads in every parts of the world and government puts efforts and the roads are fixed.

 

So, that should not be a problem to a serious-minded investor. He is not going to sleep on the road. He just passes through the road. You talked about power. Yes, I agree that power supply is a serious problem in Nigeria, which I believe government should go all out and make sure that whatever it takes to fix this problem of power should be done.

 

The problem of power is such that even from an investor or a businessman point of view, should not be a problem because when you are producing and doing business, you need to use a generator instead of the normal electricity from government or from IPP, so you discover that the cost of production becomes higher and the cost of goods consequently becomes higher.

 

So it a question of if you spend a higher amount to produce, it means you are going to sell higher. So as far as an investor is concerned it would still boil down to the same game. You just have to sell higher than what ordinarily is the price you would have sold.

 

In what areas can Namibian businessmen invest in Nigeria?

In all areas, as far they are allowed by the government. All areas are open in Nigeria for direct private foreign investment. Power is there. There is enormous investment in the power sector. (END)

 

 
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