Welcoming remarks at Nigeria-Finland Business Forum by Mr Pertti Torstila, Secretary of State

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Working Visit of H.E. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President of Republic of Nigeria 14-15.5.2009

Nigeria-Finland Business Forum
Hilton Hotel Strand, Helsinki
Thursday, May 14, 14:40-14:50

Your Excellency, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan
Distinguished members of the Nigerian delegation,
Representatives of Finnish Business Life
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to welcome you to the Nigerian-Finland Business Forum, and I am looking forward to the debate and exchange of ideas concerning the new prospects of commercial relations between our countries.

Finland and Nigeria are in a process of strengthening their co-operation on trade relations. I am delighted to see the dedication of both Nigerian and Finnish counterparts today. During the official visit of H.E. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland to Nigeria I experienced the high commitment of Nigerian government to develop business with Finland.

During the last years, the bilateral relations between Nigeria and Finland have been active. H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Republic of Nigeria, made an official visit to Finland in November 2004. The Agreement of the Protection and Promotion of Investment between Finland and Nigeria was signed during the visit of the Minister of Industry of Nigeria, H.E. Mr. Magaji Muhammed in 2005. H.E. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland visited Nigeria in March this year. Now, a visit of minister of Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, H.E. Dr. Paavo Väyrynen is in its planning stage. A Finnish business delegation will be accompanying the minister.

For the past few years, Africa has sustained a momentum of high growth, registering steady growth rates on average. Now, African economies are also severely hit by the global financial crisis. The main drivers of the recent growth and notable performance are threatened by the crisis. Therefore, this is just well timed momentum to enhance commercial relations. This gives us a common challenge to push economic growth back to the track.

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

When promoting commercial relations at governmental level, we should, however, keep in mind that business is done between private companies, not states. Well-operating business environment means infrastructure, market institutions, business competition and good governance. A peculiar feature in Finnish business life is the strict adherence to agreements. For Finns, it is difficult to establish a long lasting business relationship without knowing that agreements that are done between companies are done under well implemented rule of law.

Nigeria has improved its business climate a lot during the last years. Finland welcomes Nigerian efforts in bringing forward trade, foreign investment and finance sector reforms. Nigeria’s economic development has been significant during the resent years. Today, we will hear more about the business climate improvement in Nigeria.

Finland is the world leader developing information applications that support development of industry. In addition to industrial goods and machinery, we exports project management knowhow related to industrial processes on various fields. Therefore, I am looking for partnerships to take advantage of these opportunities, based on Nigerian vast resources as a leading African market, on one hand, and the Finnish know-how, on the other.

The commercial cooperation between Finland and Nigeria presents noteworthy potential, not only in terms of bilateral trade and services – imports and exports but also in terms of strengthening investment activities. Environment technology represents a new potential cooperation sector.

In the year 2008, export from Finland to Nigeria totalled approximately 70 million Euros. This was mainly paper, machinery and electronics. It is easy to see, that there is potential to develop the volume and diversification of trade from this level.
However, it is not only goods and services we can trade. We can exchange experiences. A study of more than 65 countries published in the UK’s New Scientist magazine suggests that the happiest people in the world live in Nigeria. In the same research, Finland’s position was 22. Therefore, Finns are expecting a lot of their cooperation with Nigerians. Our aim is to move towards greater volume and more diversified commercial goods but exchanging also the experiences of life.

Economic integration has become one of the most important factor all over the world in efforts to create more and more competitive economic environment. Finland is also convinced that the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and African countries will promote trade and investment between the two continents. ECOWAS has an important role to play in West Africa. Peace, security, democracy, development and economic integration are key factors in this regard. It is interesting to exchange views on how do you envisage ECOWAS will develop in different fields during the next few years?

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the future, our challenge is to ensure private sector ownership of the undertaking to combine trade and investments. I am convinced that when companies are innovating new business between our countries, new challenges for public sector will emerge. I hope that the results of the seminar will contribute to commercial partnership building between authorities and organizations and that the network of contacts will expand. The dialogue between Finland and Nigeria has been active this far, but most active it should be between private sector partners when they meet and create new business together in everyday life. Be warmly welcomed.

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