The Nigerian Embassy in Morocco (Charge de Affaire), through Mr Haruna Musa, has said there are bilateral agreements presenting a myriad of opportunities for Nigeria and Nigerians in Morocco that are still untapped.
The envoy stated this during an interaction with Nigerian entrepreneurs under the auspices of the Nigeria-Morocco Business Council at the Consulate in Rabat, the capital of Morocco.
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During the discussion, the envoy said he appreciated the fact that Nigerians travelled all the way to Morocco to explore business opportunities.
He said many entrepreneurs had been coming on business tours in the embassy, seeking for support and cooperation.
He, however, disclosed that not much had been reaped from their visits despite the free consultancy rendered to them.
Musa informed the visiting Nigerian business delegation that Nigeria had signed many agreements with Morocco and countries in other parts of the world, but had failed to fully utilise the opportunity to work and get such agreements signed.
“A clear example here is the Nigeria/Morocco bilateral air agreement, which only Morocco is benefiting from now,” he said.
He also noted that there was a vacuum left by Nigerian entrepreneurs in the agreement signed by the two countries on improvement of production of fertiliser in Nigeria.
“If we look at that agreement clearly, it is a joint venture between Nigeria and Morocco. And in this joint venture, to the best of our knowledge, it is 50-50 in terms of benefit, but going beyond that are other things that we want to engage them to get, apart from the joint venture.
“What I am trying to say is that the joint venture came out of an agreement and we are having a company that is going to be established in Nigeria. For me, it’s a strategic business engagement where both sides will gain, but there are other key things that are one sided.
“In order to benefit further, I think we have no reason not to extend our support to encourage a private sector from Nigeria to come in and invest or attract investors as well from here to Nigeria,” he said.
Musa said that at the embassy level, they had organised a business forum in 2019, precisely in October, to focus on energy and agriculture that would open a new vista for investments in Nigeria and the host country.
He explained that immediately after the establishment of the business forum, the embassy got a lot of requests from investors that are willing to invest in Nigeria; some of even asked for private partners.
“In fact, recently, about a week ago, we got some investors that came to enquire on power related investment and how they would go about it in Nigeria. We asked them to go and get their comprehensive details so that we can pass it across to the private sector in Nigeria as well.
“Also, there was a delegation that came with a proposal as well; they wanted to link up with Nigeria. So, all these things are here. We are going to look at them and if their papers are ready, we will pass them across to you,” he said.
He said that within his few years in Morocco, he realised that Nigeria was a member of many international organisations that encourage trade and investments but not fully utilised by Nigerians.
“One of them is the Organisation of Islamic Countries, which has an agency in Morocco called Islamic Centre for Trade Development. In fact, Nigeria seems to be one of the countries benefitting less from that centre.
“The centre is encouraging trade relations among its member states. You will see smaller countries like Togo and Cote d’Ivoire seriously benefitting from them in Morocco.
“In fact, Senegal is using that agency to the highest maximum. They collaborate with the centre to bring their investors to Morocco and ask them to take investors to Senegal. They organise trade fair for them and all those things, but never will you find any such demand from Nigeria.
“So I think I should also implore that we utilise this centre. And they promised to the embassy that if there is any business forum, they are ready to render free services.
“The centre is ever ready to do it, even if it means linking you up with other interested partners elsewhere,” he said.
Musa urged the Nigerian entrepreneurs to create time for a visit to the centre and see how they can collaborate directly with them.
“The centre has a magazine called Tajry and they promised to advertise for member states free-of-charge. That is to say if I know this visit will be as large as this, I would have invited them to come.
“Currently, the next edition of that magazine is mainly featuring Nigeria. We are just waiting for a response from the Ministry of Trade because they just brought us some draft that we sent to the ministry and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). I think we got a reply from the NNPC, and probably, by the end of the day we would get a reply from the Ministry of Trade.
“So, this magazine is squarely on Nigeria; it is like portraying the business potential of Nigeria to the outside world. You can take advantage of that too to advertise your activities.
“Beyond this, the embassy is also looking at the advent of free trade area in Africa. If you look at some countries, they are well prepared. Morocco is well prepared to deal and benefit from that,” he said.
He said the embassy was trying to look for the possibility of connecting Morocco port to Nigeria or Moroccan airport to the Nigerian airport directly.
“A clear example is this: from many cities in Morocco you can fly directly to so many cities in Europe without necessarily going through commercial capitals or countries. From here you fly to Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona or any city at all in Europe.
“If we can connect our aviation business, let’s say we have an airline and go into partnership with Air Morocco, for instance, Nigeria is strategically located. Flying from Morocco to, let’s say, South Africa, takes you about 10 hours or less. And why do they have to travel all this long if they have a business relation with Nigeria? For example, you have an airline in Nigeria that partners with Morocco airline, they will take all the passengers coming from Europe from here to, say Abuja or Lagos, and the Nigerian airline connects to the other part of Africa.
“The good thing is that Nigeria is equal distance to every important country in Africa, 4 hours or 4hours 30munutes maximum, unlike this axis. So European-bound passengers can be picked by a Nigerian airline, connect with Moroccon airline in Lagos or Abuja to Europe. Going into that will lessen the issue of taxation and what have you.
“The Moroccan airline will reduce their payment of airport fees and the Nigerian airline will also reduce payment of airport fees, and it will reduce competition. So the possibility of every flight flying full capacity is there and will reduce all the cost of running airline.
“These are some of the areas you should also be looking at. Apart from these, Morocco has what can be seen as the largest port in Africa, strategically located, just 11 kilometers away from Spain. So it is a mighty port and with a very large free trade zone.
“Recently, the manufacturing capacity, especially in terms of vehicle production increased. In fact, they were even boasting of producing cars more than India. So with the free trade zone, do you think all these cars would be going back to Europe? It will be heading southward.
“So we have to also think strategically how we can connect and benefit from this kind of arrangement, even if it means transporting the vehicles from them and having our seaport linked to their own seaports. The opportunity of getting these things faster is there because these are things that are concrete and are on ground.
“We also have the project of extending the rail line from Nigeria to Niger, and in the future, this rail line can be extended from Niger to Mediterranean to Morocco.
“There are lots of things we can really look at, analyse them and see which ones can fit us. I think, working together with you from the embassy we can always write our report back home while you put pressure on the governmental angle to see the reason why such things should be there,” he observed.
He said seeking for support by Nigerians was one of the cardinal purposes of establishing embassy in the host country and to protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians, “therefore, the mandate of why we are here is fulfilling,” he added.
Highlighting what the embassy has been doing in the last one year, he said the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic had made their work very difficult, but they were able to go round the country and saw to the welfare of Nigerians.
“Some of the leaders are here and can attest to that. We extended our support to them in different ways. For those who need just psychological advise and palliatives, we task ourselves to help them, even when there is no budget for that.”
“Sometimes we ask for contributions from staff, and whatever we are able to gather, we extend it to them. We did the same for students that are under the bilateral education agreement. The federal government is aware that the students are here. We also did the same for the large number of students that are here on their own, without federal government’s support. They are about 168.
“Recently, we got a distress call from students not sponsored by government, from various cities in the northern part of Morocco, up to the centre side and decided to move in quickly. I left here on Saturday to Tanje, Tatuwan Suswa to Shishuwan, down to Fez, to assist them,” he said.