Are there industrial risks in Abuja Nigeria

Economic mission to Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire: great potential, but also challenges

Don't be afraid of the unknown - but don't underestimate the challenges either.

The results of the five-day economic mission to West Africa under the leadership of Federal Councilor Johann Schneider-Ammann could not be more aptly summarized. The statement was also intended as advice for “newcomers” to the market. It comes from an entrepreneur who has worked in various functions and countries on the African continent for several decades. Like all the other participants, he rates the economic potential of Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire as enormous. In his opinion, companies should focus on the opportunities, not primarily on the risks. However, one should not underestimate the risks. Anyone who wants to be successful in Africa usually needs staying power and flexibility.

Nigeria: Business wants to address problems bilaterally

In Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, the delegation met with Okechukwu Enelamah, the Nigerian Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment, among others, before traveling on to Lagos, the country's economic metropolis. The minister stressed the government's intention to tackle the country's challenges and, in particular, to fight corruption and bureaucracy, but also to tackle infrastructure problems. Here one hopes for relief through digitization.

Representatives of the 20-strong business delegation headed by economiesuisse President Heinz Karrer were able to address their most important concerns. Heinz Karrer proposed the establishment of a Joint Commission Nigeria-Switzerland in order to efficiently resolve the bilateral challenges. He also emphasized the importance of a double taxation agreement and welcomed the fact that the negotiations would continue in 2018.

These suggestions and interests were also heard in an exchange with Yewande Sadiku, Managing Director of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, and Ambassador Chiedu Osakwe, General Director of the Nigerian Office for Commercial Contracts.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has recently become Switzerland's most important oil supplier. Around 200 million people live in the country that is 23 times the size of ours. Around 45 Swiss companies are based in Nigeria. That is rather little compared to the great potential. However, together they employ more than 10,000 people.

Despite the recession, from which Nigeria has been slowly recovering since the end of 2017, numerous Swiss companies have continued to invest in the country or have newly entered the market. "We came to stay," said a company representative. The long-term plans include research projects, but also training and further education programs for employees - especially those for young people and women. Many companies train their employees from scratch. This commitment was highly praised by the Nigerian side and it was emphasized several times how much the country could learn from the Swiss vocational training system.

Government of Côte d’Ivoire wants to tackle challenges

Until shortly before the turn of the millennium, the Ivory Coast was considered to be the economic miracle of Africa due to its export-oriented economic policy. Political unrest and the fall in the cocoa price - Côte d’Ivoire produces a third of the world's cocoa - have plunged the country into a serious crisis: politically and economically. In 2017 the economic engine began to get going again. Today over 30 Swiss companies are based in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Swiss delegation met with the Prime Minister and other ministers at the government headquarters in Abidjan. Federal Councilor Johann Schneider-Ammann was previously received by the President for a one-on-one discussion. Government officials assured those in attendance that they would like to do their homework, diversify their economies better, tackle infrastructure problems, and fight corruption and bureaucracy.

Following the official talks, the business representatives met for an exchange with representatives of the African Development Bank (AfDB). The development bank finances projects across Africa. It is committed to reducing poverty and improving living conditions and wants to contribute to the continent's economic and social development. AfDB projects are often implemented in the form of a public-private partnership - that is, with the involvement of business. The AfDB shares the business community's assessment of the challenges Côte d’Ivoire is facing.

The business mission concluded with a working meeting with participants from the Africa CEO Forum, a platform established by business for the exchange of ideas on the economic and industrial challenges facing the African continent. The forum is held alternately in Abidjan and Geneva - with Swiss participation.