Nigeria is one of Switzerland’s most important trade partners in Africa and is a major supplier of crude oil. The volume of trade between Switzerland and Nigeria fluctuates strongly year by year. In 2014, it was at about 1 billion USD, while in 2015 it declined to about 650 billion USD due to low oil prices.
In this exclusive interview, Mr. Yves Nicolet, Consul General, Consulate General of Switzerland in Lagos speaks on the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and Swiss and also on packaging.
What is the volume of international trade between Nigeria and Switzerland? Would you say its balance?
Nigeria is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa on which Switzerland focuses its greatest efforts to safeguard its interests. Relations are good and close, encompassing not only economic matters but also high-level political meetings, institutionalised talks on human rights issues and a migration partnership. We are sure the potential in Nigeria is so big, Switzerland is well named here in Nigeria. For many reasons, we have to take the opportunity to improve the relationship between the two countries and the commercial exchange. The commercial exchange is relatively low, our import is only oil, 98 percent of the import of Switzerland from Nigeria is crude oil, but we can also increase the number of import from Nigeria for Swiss products we have 133 million import from Nigeria of Swiss crudes, 360 million dollars export from Nigeria to Switzerland with packaging as one of the factor because we have machineries, food, watches, chemical products etc.
Are there any steps taken to improve the relationship?
It’s not really the goal of consulate general in Nigeria to improve the number of import of Switzerland products from Nigeria it’s the task of Nigerian government and promoting companies but we try to help them also because it’s very important it could be also very interesting for Switzerland to import more products from Nigeria because Nigeria has a lot of things to offer especially in Agricultural and mining products. I really hope that after my 5 years here we can say we are not importing only crude oil but a lot of other products which will be a good sign for Nigeria too because it will show that Nigeria has not only crude oil to export to other countries.
Our first duty is more to improve, to bring the Swiss companies here, to develop the Nigeria market for Swiss companies so I insist on this not only on the trade basis, but also on manufacturing basis so we hope that we can bring few Swiss companies who could be able to transform some products, and bring works for Nigerian population.
BOBST, Nestlé and other Swiss Companies are generally flourishing in the market. What is the trade secret?
One of the secret is the long life of Nestle founded 151 years ago. I think Switzerland is a very stable country, the politics is stable so we didn’t have any war since the last one in the 17 centuries. Stability, I mean capacity of people to work, quality and long tradition of industries. I think our stability is not only in politics but in the economy. We are very strong with our money, bank, company but a country without a crisis is always a big advantage if you compare with other countries.
Please tell us what Swiss is doing to ensure that these packaging manufacturing are operating at their installed capacity?
Packaging is included in the success of the Swiss economy in general and its part of the success in Swiss. Last year, Switzerland ranked 1st in all active countries of the world, due to this capacity of innovation, research, science etc. we can also develop may be new products, and this is one of the reasons because we stay on this level with innovation. It plays a big role in the packaging.
What other big Packaging, Brand owner, FCMG companies are the Swiss in Nigeria?
We have over 40 Swiss company represented here in Nigeria and most of them are located here in Lagos. But we have five new Swiss companies who invested here: Sicar, deals with chemical for construction materials, they have a factory in Ogun state. There is also Feminic, a company doing flavour products for food & beverage; Bobst; Giberit selling toilet and materials for bathrooms of a very high quality they have official representation here in Nigeria, we have others who are very close to be here. Since I am here, I am very proud to say we could bring 4-6 Swiss investors/companies here I insist not only on the trade matter but also on the manufacturing.
The high influx of Africa immigrants into Europe is apprehensive to the EU. How is Swiss managing harnessing related to unlawful immigrants of Nigerians to Switzerland?
Switzerland is not member of the EU but we are in the Schengen system we have the same visa system. On the contrary with the EU, we have migration agreement with Nigeria some few years ago, this agreement is very appreciated not only in Switzerland but also in Nigeria. It is not only to send back the returnees, but also to finance projects here in Nigeria. To bring them again to the economy, to the market, so we have a lot of projects with Nigeria for helping these returnees to restart their life here. But for the Visa of course this is a very big problem already it’s a very big problem, it can continue to be a very big problem because we know that Nigeria have 180 million inhabitants but there is an enquiry which say that the population will be about 400 million in 2035 which will be a very big population and its extremely important that Nigeria and African countries generally can improve its economic situation. Presently in Switzerland we don’t have so big invasion of people for the moment but if we continue like this it can be a big issue. We finance the people who are coming back, if they create small company/factory we help them financially. When they arrive, I think they will receive half of the amount at the beginning and half later.
Switzerland is synonymous with Chocolate, Swiss Bank and Swiss watches … tell us more?
This sounds like a cliché but we have many other things. We have a very good University, advance technology, construction and services, the UPS Bank which have a representation here, social enterprises, shipping companies with so many services and transport. In Nigeria we have the food and beverage and the pharmaceutical products and many other things.
Are there any opportunity of creating employment for the Youth in Nigeria?
This is good, this is really my dream, to create jobs for young Nigeria people because this is the only one way to improve the everyday life of the Nigerian people. The future of this country is the youth, we have to find and create jobs for this young people because they are very good, able and sound intellectually. I really hope we can bring to Nigeria not only trainers but manufacturing companies to create jobs.
Finally, what would you say is your legacy?
Like I said earlier, have been here in Nigeria 30 years ago. I never thought I will come back when I left, I arrived here 30 years after as a Consulate General of Switzerland, for my last role, I will leave in 2020 its shows that I started here and I will finish my career here so I am very linked to Nigeria. But it is very important that a country like Nigeria in general should be well modernized because it’s a good sign of improvement of the economy but on the other side you have to keep your authenticity.