European investors are ready to invest in Nigeria but the country must demonstrate its competitiveness, the outgoing EU ambassador to Nigeria and leader of delegation to ECOWAS, Michael Arrion, has said.
Arrion made the disclosure in Port Harcourt at the weekend, while addressing the business community in the Niger Delta, as part of activities marking the ambassadors departure from Nigeria.
The ambassador made it clear that any country wishing to attract EU investments must look inwards and repair those factors that repelled the appetite of investors. He made it further clear that investors ask a lot of questions and get their facts correct before venturing into any economic belt, saying it would pay Nigeria a lot of dividend to create a conducive atmosphere to attract European investments.
Speaking shortly after being conferred with a chieftaincy title, Arrion, who has spent four years in Nigeria and campaigned vigorously for the endorsement of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with ECOWAS countries, said Nigeria did not need more aid but more European investments, warning that no nation has developed with aid. “Nigeria is rich enough to attract EU investments”.
He said: “We can through partnership improve the economy of Nigeria and create jobs for the youths; we (EU) are ready to invest, but competitiveness is the key. EU is looking at the world; we can invest anywhere in the world, including Nigeria. You have to demonstrate that you are better than other nations, you have to create the conducive environment to convince European investors”.
He gave example of car manufacture; “There are 47 nations bringing the parts that make a car; Boeing is made from 42 countries; why not Nigeria become the 43rd? Tiles are made in Liberia; why not in Nigeria? This is how to reason to compete. Nigeria, please create enabling environment for industries; you have comparative advantage in cotton, palm oil, leather, garments, etc.”
The diplomat said the business community is very important. “They represent the future of Nigeria. We see Nigeria as a partner, not as a market”.
He said informal contacts were very important for a diplomat, adding that engaging with traditional rulers in Nigeria was key and that he had worked closely with them. “They have played significant roles in Nigeria’s development”.
Arrion used the opportunity to clarify his position on aid to Nigeria, saying, “I never said the EU will stop or has stopped aid to Nigeria. What I said is that aid was not the solution for Nigeria to develop. No country in the world ever developed with aid. So, what the EU is offering is not more aid, but more partnership, more policy dialogue, more investment from EU private sector. My position is that Nigeria does not need more aid; Nigeria needs more investments.”
He went on; “That is not to say that the EU is stopping aid to Nigeria. Right now, we are still delivering aid to the North East, humanitarian assistance, recovery and reconstruction of the north east. We have compared some statistics and we are implementing $400m aid to the north east. We are not stopping aid, but that is not enough and Nigeria is rich enough. If you can attract investments, you will not need aid any more.”
In his remarks about the outgoing friend of the Niger Delta business community, the president of the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF), Ibifri Bobmanuel, an engineer and construction expert, said; “ Michael Arrion is a great guy and has served the EU and Nigeria well, with passion. I vividly recall how he tried to boost the hides and skin (leather) industry, how he talked to the Kastina State governor and held an EU seminar on this sector. This is how he made most of us to realise Nigeria is a potential power in the leather industry. Arrions keeps showing us (Nigerian businesses) how we can play well in the EU market.”
He said; “He feels it is criminal for Nigeria to have all the potentials without putting it to use. He helped to raise awareness on how to do business in the Niger Delta successfully using the Indorama-Eleme and NLNG templates. No ambassador has done what this man has done.”
Bobmanuel admitted that the EPA with ECOWAS would open a whole lot of opportunities between the EU and West Africa. “He championed this cause with all his energy and that is how someone like me who would never have touched the idea with a pole became an EPA convert. Michael Arrion has become one of us (Rivers) and that is why we pushed for a chieftaincy title to him”.