Ecuador, Nigeria must work to improve volume of trade – Envoy
Leopoldo Rovayo Verdesoto, ambassador of the Republic of Ecuador to Nigeria, has disclosed that his country’s volume of trade with Nigeria is a paltry $5 million, adding that his mission in Nigeria is to find new strategic ways to help improve trade relations. In this interview with INNOCENT ODOH, the envoy also noted that obstacles to business initiatives in both countries must be eliminated for a more enduring relationship. Excerpts:
What is the volume of trade between Ecuador and Nigeria since both countries established diplomatic ties in 1979?
The volume of trade is very low. I think from 2010 to 2015 the volume is $5 million. We think that Nigeria and Ecuador should work to improve this level. The Ecuadorian Embassy in Abuja has participated two times in the Abuja Trade fair organised by the Chamber of Commerce, and in November we were in Lagos with a stand to offer information on Ecuador. We think that the Nigerian markets could as well offer opportunities for Ecuadorian products because of its quality.
What efforts are you making to improve trade relations between both countries and what are the barriers?
The first barrier that I encountered is that Nigeria and Ecuador do not know each other very well. It is like you cannot make friends if you do not know each other. Unfortunately, the media in Nigeria does not focus on the positive aspects of Nigeria and its abundant resources, capacity and minerals .The media is not focusing on that. So, I have to work on both sides in promoting Nigeria in Ecuador and Ecuador in Nigeria. Ecuador is making great strides in the production of shrimps, banana, palm oil and many other products. So we have made a lot of moves trying to move from petroleum economy and trying to boost private sector to do so.
How attractive are businesses in Nigeria to your country and vice versa?
People are looking at more precise information .We are trying to see the possibility of establishing a cocoa factory in Nigeria to see how we can export that to Europe or United States. We have people who have the knowledge to produce banana in Ecuador and they are trying to improve banana business in Nigeria. So we are working to convince Nigerian businessmen. As you know, Ecuador and Nigeria are oil producing countries, so there is another opportunity for business between both countries in the medium size Ecuadorian petroleum that gives service to the industry following Ecuador’s experience in the industry since 1974.
The global fall in the prices of crude oil affected the Ecuadorian economy, how is it trying to wriggle out of it?
Our country is having challenges that came with the crash in the oil price just like Nigeria but Ecuador diversified its agriculture and maintained an appreciable level of sufficiency in food production. It also improved its power and tourism.
Ecuador could share the knowledge we have in the production of other things with Nigeria. But I don’t think Ecuadorian investors would like to invest in Nigeria because our economy is very small. Two years ago we had an Ecuadorian company that wanted to invest in factory to make products like indomie, candies and stuff like that, but finally they shelved the idea because it was in 2015, which was a difficult year for Nigeria.
But Nigeria has steadily made improvement in ways of doing business. It seems also Nigeria is trying to improve the power sector which has big impact in the competiveness of the Nigerian products to compare with imported goods. So when Nigeria solves the power problem nobody can detain your development, because it will sustain your economy and give more people jobs and reduce poverty.
Also if you improve agriculture and reinforce the Nigerian market by consuming what Nigeria produces, that would be great. Nigeria has an advantage because you have the market in this area, you have a population of 180 million people, and the United Nations Population Fund estimates that in 2050 Nigeria would have 450 million people.
In Ecuador, we had a campaign some years ago asking our citizens to consume Ecuadorian goods and that boosted the economy and kept the money in the country for reinvestment.
Now that Nigeria has been scored highly in the ease of doing business index, the Ecuadorian company that once came to Nigeria and left, would you as the ambassador to Nigeria, convince them to come back and do business in Nigeria?
The ease of doing business had improved but in every country there is a lot to be done. In Ecuador, the CEOs of the companies are complaining that Nigeria has too much paper work for paying taxes. So more has to be done and of course Nigeria has to improve security, means of transport, the way the ports are run and must avoid paper work. Everything has to improve. Nigeria should also establish a visible and transparent data base of its companies with the contacts of the CEOs to make it easier for Ecuadorian businessmen to comprehend to avoid suspicions of fraud.
What are the prospects of the diplomatic ties between Ecuador and Nigeria?
I am optimistic and at the same time pessimistic. This is because to finalise things in Nigeria sometimes takes too much time and time is money. We have one year agreement between Nigeria and Ecuador for the withdrawal of diplomatic visas in the ministry of justice of Nigeria, but it is taking more time than necessary to finalise. But we also try to push and be patient because Nigeria is very important to Ecuador and to the world because of its political stature.
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