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Left to right: His Excellency Dr Abdulla Almandoos, Jimoh Babatunde and Tuoyo Amuka – Vanguard Media at the U.AE Consulate office in Lagos discussing collaborative ideas.

The Consul General of the United Arab Emirates, UAE, in Nigeria, Dr Abdulla Almandoos, is an embodiment of humility in spite of the exalted office he occupies.

This is as he comes easily across as a man who is in love with his country and the achievements it has recorded in the 50 years-plus of its existence.

He met recently with Tuoyo Amuka, Business Service Manager of Vanguard Media and Jimoh Babatunde, to share his beliefs on the value and benefits of the relationship between the U.A.E and Nigeria. Here is an excerpt of the interview.

THE UAE just celebrated its 50th anniversary. What factors led to the sustainable progress that has seen the country achieve all that it has?

A good leader with a visionary mindset is a major factor to the progress. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE established the foundation of our nation.

The record of the UAE’s economy bears testament to the wise vision of the country’s leadership and the sound legislation that guarantees the stability of all investments in various sectors.

Today, the UAE is the second safest place in the world because of the unified vision of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.

Now we are looking forward to another 50 years. We are not thinking of ourselves, we are looking at leaving something behind through investment in human capital and using information and communication technology in developing the nation.

On the recent 50 new economic initiatives rolled out by UAE.

The ‘Project of the 50’ is a series of developmental and economic projects which covers several key sectors such as economy, entrepreneurship, advanced skills, digital economy, space and advanced technologies.

We have 50 innovative ideas to generate and push our economy up and move to a digitalised economy; so we have to be prepared systematically.

Prior to the innovation of electric cars as a means of transportation, we had animals and then petrol cars. Although there have been a few challenges with this innovation, such as having to attach a power bank to the car to keep it running, now ways have come about to try and solve this.

The second challenge we have had to deal with is performing ground trade; but all that today is done through data in the airspace, a space wide enough to open communication and hold meetings with several countries virtually.

There is also the innovation of virtual real estate. There are several innovative labs in operation with each lab responsible for one sector or another. All projects seek to establish the UAE as a global nation and testbed for tech and innovation.

On the relationship between both countries

If I were not here I would not have a better understanding of Nigeria, and this is why the government is opening embassies and consulates to give them feedback about the reality of the different countries.

If you don’t know the people’s traditional heritage and culture you will not get to know the people; once the culture of a people and their tradition are known, one will know how to interact with them and I know we have a common culture. This is historical; this is not a new relationship.

Historically, Arabs visited Africa and vice versa. There are people in Africa with Arab roots and the same with Arabs with African roots.

There are lots of Africans today living in the UAE and who understand the culture. The sharing of experiences between countries is very important.

In areas of culture, Nigeria and UAE are doing well. In January 2016 in Abu Dhabi Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates signed six different agreements to enhance bilateral relations.

When President Muhammadu Buhari spent three days in UAE, the first by a Nigerian leader since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states in the early ’80s. The signing of the agreements on trade, finance and judicial matters was witnessed by President Buhari and the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Other areas of relationship between both countries include being members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC; telecommunication and aviation.

So, the United Arab Emirates and the Federal Republic of Nigeria have a strong relationship that is built on support, strong bilateral trade and a common outlook. So many projects are being executed in Nigeria by the UAE which covers key areas such as education, healthcare and pure drinking water.

On Nigerians in UAE

The contributions of Nigerians in the diaspora community are well recognised all over the world. We have sizeable numbers of Nigerians in the UAE. We have more than 3000 students in UAE studying both regular courses and online at various universities in the UAE; and we are looking forward to them coming back to Nigeria to use the knowledge they are acquiring from UAE to contribute their communities. This is just as we are looking forward to having UAE nationals coming to Nigeria to gain knowledge; and this is one of the projects we are working on.

UAE has one of the fastest-growing tourism and health sectors as it attracts 500,000 international medical tourists from around the world. We have about 200,000 Nigerians that travel to UAE for tourism or crossing to other countries.

In the area of health, the Noor Dubai Foundation signed an agreement with the Katsina State government for a four-year sustainable comprehensive eye care programme in 2019.

On the level of bilateral trade between both countries

As at 2019, the total volume of non- oil bilateral trade between Nigeria and UAE stood at around $1.5 billion. It slowed down a bit in 2020 because of COVID-19; however, when trade data for 2021 come out, we expect the volume of trade to go beyond per pandemic time.

Many meetings and conferences were held to increase the bilateral trade between UAE and Nigeria. As I am speaking with you, there are 14 Nigerian governors in Dubai for the Annual Investment Meeting, AIM, to brainstorm with business conglomerates, to seek a very robust business environment and development between Nigeria and the UAE.

Today, the UAE is amongst the top 10 largest exporters to Nigeria globally and it continues to see Nigeria as one of the largest economies in Africa and also an important trusted partner.

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The consulate has commenced a series of trade and investment promotion activities aimed at bolstering the bilateral trade and investment volume between both nations.

On how they have been able to harness the power and innovation of its youth

The UAE government sees the young people as its greatest assets and the foundation of the country’s future.

So, the government designed many policies to make the youth take part in every sector and at all levels of governance and decision-making, and to infuse them into the national strategy as key stakeholders and actors in the country’s development.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.