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With $16.4b trade, Nigeria, India should have direct connectivity – Envoy


The Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mahesh Sachdev, says diplomatic ties between his country and the host country are strong but believes things can be better.

What is the state of relations between India and Nigeria?
India was the first to have diplomatic ties with Nigeria, that was two years before Nigeria got her independence.
We opened a  High Commission in Nigeria in 1958 and  the goal of the government of India was  to give its official support to Nigeria for the independence. The ties have been exceptionally close; never have  India and Nigeria defaulted on any issue and people to people contact has remained great.

We have been engaged with Nigeria for  decades at  people to people level,  business to business level and  government to government level. Today, we count Nigeria as one of the top 15  trading partners of India. For instance, India’s trade, last year,  was higher than India’s trade with the United Kingdom meaning that  we traded more with Nigeria than  with the United Kingdom.

What is the volume of trade between India and Nigeria?
The vibrancy is easy  to quantify when it comes to trade according to the Indian data. Bilateral trade with Nigeria in 2011 was $16. 376 billion; what India exported  from Nigeria was worth over  $13billion  and our own export to Nigeria was only $2.648million. In  other words,  the total trade was $16. 376million; we had $11billion trade deficit with Nigeria. So, India was contributing to the tune of $11 billion to the  Nigerian economy. That figure makes Nigeria our second largest trading partner.

Commodity wise, majority of trade export to India is crude  oil but  our export  is  slightly more diversified; we are talking about transport equipment  such as cars, buses, trucks, machineries and instruments which Nigeria needs  for its  economy. Pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals, rice and electronics are  five top major components  of Indian export to Nigeria.

I also have  figures  from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics for  the last quarter of 2011 which show that  India was the 3rd largest recipient of Nigerian export, 3rd largest source of import into Nigeria and overall 3rd largest trading partner. The trade  between both countries  is doing very well despite the challenges and I believe there are opportunities for the trade to grow further. For example, India needs  $9billion  palm oil every year, and we did  not know of palm oil  until the white man came to  West Africa  especially the Niger Delta.

Now we don’t get any palm oil from Nigeria. Isn’t that  a  potential area for  the two countries to collaborate so that palm oil  can be revived on large scale in Nigeria and exported to India?

There are  other areas as well  where we can collaborate.  India  needs  a lot of  cashew nut;  some of it comes from Nigeria but  cocoa, shea  butter  are  also needed in the country as well and Nigeria is welcome to take even more prominent place in  the Indian  market.


What are the major challenges impacting on the India, Nigeria relations?
The trade  relationship is doing well,  it is not stagnant or receding;  so I will not like to accept the word challenges, but why we are not able to leverage  the opportunities. If  that is the question, I could answer it by suggesting that we need  a better frame work, awareness of each other’s  capability, more openness and transparency, equivalent of standards so that some products,  once tested in India,  can enter Nigeria; they  don’t have  to be tested again  in Nigeria.

For instance,  Nigeria and India  can  put together a preferential trading document  so that Nigeria’s export can go to a  large india market of 1.1 to 2billion  people and India’s  export can go to  the Nigerian market without hindrance, without standard customs,  without all those checks. If  we  are able to have no customs  duties, no standard related checks, Indian companies will come to Nigeria and invest in palm oil and plantation so that they have supply security and they know that they can take the palm oil to India without hinderance.  I think if we can put it in place together that will be wonderful.

At another level, trade is encouraged if  we have direct shipping, direct banking and direct connectivity between India and Nigeria. For  instance, if you ordered  for  something, the payment has to be made in  two to three countries because there is no Nigerian  bank in India and no Indian  bank in Nigeria.

The   goods arrive but not in a container that is shipped  from Mumbai  and Lagos, it first goes to maybe Singapore, Dubai, South Africa,  then it  is transshipped and that raises cost. With  $16.4 billion trade, it  should be possible to have direct services for shipping. So these are the factors that impede the growth of trade, if these factors  are  ameliorated, a trade, which is already doing so well, will do even better.

India has acquired a reputation as a major medical tourism destination. How did India achieve this feat?
I think we are privileged to be trusted by the Nigerian health sector. Our medicines are the best selling in Nigeria  today; more than a third of Nigerian medicines  are  of Indian origin or made in Nigeria from India. About three years ago, the medical tourism sector picked up between Nigeria and India.

It was not done through active promotion but through word of mouth from Nigerians patients who returned  from India after treatment. Initially, the number was small, but, after three years,  the number rose and  today constitutes  the biggest component which has been given  by the Indian High Commission Lagos and Abuja to Nigerians.

We are sensitive to Nigerian patients and we do our best to give fast and careful service. We  are not allowed to impede  a critical ill patient from going to Indian hospitals.  I believe Nigerians  find Indian health care  providers, preferable  and it has indeed become a byline for preference  because the  cost  and quality of Indian health care providers  are quite good.

Secondly, I believe Nigerian patients see Indian health care providers as treating them with greater dignity. The patient and the health care  provider  are taken  into consideration and told what exactly is wrong with the patient and what are the various options available and then the patient, with his health care provider, decides what  option is best for him or her,and this is quite unique.

The Nigerian  patient is treated as an automobile; you know, an automobile doesn’t have to be consulted on  whether there are parts that need to be changed or to be repaired. In  India,  the Nigerian patients are treated with dignity.
I would also like you to know why tourism to India  might have mature. This is not an ideal situation because, it is inhuman for a seriously ill patient to be forced to travel 7,000 kilometers to receive treatment in a strange country, undergo two or three flight connections,  negotiate with taxi drivers  at the airport, cope with bureaucracy and so on and so forth.

I prefer we come to table and  provide Nigerian patients care in their own country, care that is of international standard. I am happy to note that an Indian hospital is operating in Abuja and nearly 50 Indian health care providers and doctors are rendering tertiary service to  patients in their own country.

What is the volume of India investments  in  the Nigerian health sector?
I won’t be able to give you specific figures  but allow me to say there are about thirty Indian companies engaged in providing pharmaceuticals to Nigeria. There  is Primus Hospital here in Abuja and Kilis Hospital  in collaboration with the Indian government.  With seventy-year  history in optomology in India, we have also conducted more than 80,000 cataract operations in Nigeria on demand.

Primus Hospital is one of India major health establishments  in Nigeria and it is currently under investigation by the authorities over alleged unethical practices. Is the Indian government seeking diplomatic ways of resolving the  issue?
When you start something, you are bound to come across some instances of  misunderstanding with the regulatory authority. I  don’t believe  this difference should overshadow the  positive gesture that the Indian health care providers have to offer. I believe the misunderstanding is being  sorted out  without  diplomatic involvement.

India is fast earning a reputation as a country plagued by official corruption. How is this issue being tackled?
I would like to contest this question that we are fast emerging as a corrupt country; I think it is a subject of assessment. Allow me to say the corrupt and protection interest index  put India at 95 rank out of 178 countries and the rank of Nigeria in that list is 143.

Does it look as if  we have  anything to be proud of in that particular ranking? I don’t is think so.
However corruption remains a problem that  the Indian state is determined  to deal with, what will help India in fighting corruption , its open and diverse  society with more than 7,000 newspapers, 14,000  T.V channels.  Indian is an open and vigilant society.


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