Mahesh Sachdev, a former Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria has pushed for closer bilateral ties between both countries, even as he disclosed that Nigeria remains India’s largest trading partner in Africa.
He made this disclosure in an opinion piece published in a leading Indian daily newspaper on Monday June 10, 2019.
According to the former envoy, while it may be tempting to shrug at similarities between both countries as banal trivia; under them lies plenty of substance and potential linking the two countries and aspirations of their people.
“First, Nigeria being Africa’s most populous country (191 million) and economy ($376 billion) as well as the world’s sixth largest oil exporter (about 2 million barrels per day) is evidently important to us.
“According to the latest Indian Department of Commerce statistics, Nigeria is India’s largest trading partner in Africa (19th overall) with total trade estimated at $13.5 billion in 2018-19.
“As official Nigerian data show, thanks to our booming oil imports, India is Nigeria’s largest trading partner. For the same reason, Nigeria enjoys 4:1 surplus in bilateral trade.
“Nevertheless, it is still a sizeable market for India’s manufactured exports, such as (2018-19 figures) miscellaneous machinery ($500 million), vehicles ($495 million), pharmaceutical products ($447 million), textile items ($299 million), iron and steel articles ($152 million) and plastics ($109 million),” he affirmed.
Interestingly, the current leaders of India and Nigeria, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Muhammadu Buhari, both began their respective second terms within a day of each other, following their unexpectedly decisive election victories.
Both leaders were also said to face similar challenges in their first term including security against terror, monetary and fiscal conundrums, a communal and sectarian divide, chronic unemployment, rampant corruption and rural distress, among others.
Continuing, Sachdev disclosed: “In contrast to the stagnancy in India’s global exports, its exports to Nigeria surged by 27% last year to reach around $2,880 million.
“(Furthermore) Indian investments in Nigeria are estimated at around $15 billion with a further $5 billion in the pipeline. There are at least 180 Indian companies operating in Nigeria with pharmaceuticals, steel, power, retailing, fast-moving consumer goods and skilling as their mainstay.
“Approximately 50,000 Indians reside in Nigeria, some of them for decades. Most of them are professionals, such as engineers, accountants, bankers, trainers and health-care experts.
Urging the leadership in both countries to take the initiative to energise bilateral ties, Sachdev identifies critical areas of cooperation that could benefit both countries.
“For instance, some simple tweaking in our visa procedure can help thousands of Nigerians avail of our medical and educational facilities, benefiting all sides and creating huge people-to-people goodwill.
“Despite the encouraging numbers, the two governments have not yet been able to facilitate direct connectivity of air travel, banking and shipping — steps which could have promoted the ease of doing bilateral business.
“Second, enormous potential still waits to be leveraged in such sectors such as upstream hydrocarbons (despite India being the largest buyer of Nigerian crude), agriculture, health care and skilling.
Sachdev who authored the book – Nigeria: A Business Manual – is of the view that more needs to be done in leveraging the lines of interactions and similarities between both countries, especially as both leaders settle down into their respective second terns in office.
“As the two leaders begin their respective second innings, they need to give a push to India-Nigerian ties sooner rather than later.
“With oil and other commodities becoming a seller’s market, an early summit between the two leaders is an obvious imperative. It could evolve a multi-pronged strategy to leverage evident economic complementarities in sectors such as hydrocarbons, infrastructure, institution-building, defence and agriculture.
“A purposive follow-up session of the joint economic commission soon thereafter could provide an incremental and sustainable road map empowering the relevant bilateral stakeholders.
“If handled deftly and with political will, it could usher in an India-Nigeria economic synergy that has been untapped for some decades,” he submitted.