Eu Ambassador Visits Phccima, Plans Mutually Beneficial Cooperation & Partnership Expansion

By Anderson Hart

The European Union has indicated plans to expand partnership and build mutually beneficial cooperation with Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, PHCCIMA.

The Head of the European Union delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS Ambassador, Michel Arrion made this declaration in Port Harcourt during a working visit to the President of Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Emi Membere-Otaji at the secretariat.

He had during the visit disclosed that they are working together and impressing on the Presidential Committee to facilitate the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria. He said the European Enterprise Network, EEN and Belgian-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce are working closely to create a network to help Small and Medium Enterprises develop skills and increase productivity of Nigerian workers with other countries through skill acquisition programmes. He identified inefficient security and criminal justice systems as the bane of global investments.

He disclosed that the EU has held Business Forum in Lagos focused on Health and Electricity and announced that they will partner with the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce to host an EU Business Forum in Port Harcourt in April, 2017. Ambassador Micheal Arrion also spoke on EU grants targeted at stimulating local economies, and said such grants will be made available to help in financing Bankable Projectslike the10m Euros grant in the North for 10km Solar Farms.

He said Port Harcourt represents a very important region in Nigeria for the implementation of the diversification policy of the Federal Government, adding that the EU is attracted to Nigeria because of the increasing population and projection that Nigeria will be one of the biggest markets in the world by the year 2020. The EU envoy who disclosed that European goods are better in quality but very expensive in price, but however noted that his objective is to invest and produce in Nigeria, while making strategic contact with investors from Europe, Nigeria and the ECOWAS sub region.

He observed that 70% of illegal business in Nigeria and the ECOWAS sub region are not recorded which would have generated more tax for government, and assured that the EU is ready to discuss with Federal and State governments including private sector operators.

His Excellency Arrion acknowledged that Africans are EU’s nearer neighbours and shares same big market having good comparative advantages in terms of rule of law and finance. He identified areas of challenge in Nigeria as power, non tax free zones, roads, water and poor ease of doing business with the outside world when compared with other countries as ranked by the World Bank.

A member of the delegation, Mr. Filippo Amato distributed some documents which include the Economic Partnership Agreement between EU and West Africa, the EU Trade and Development Policy on 10 benefits of the EPA and the Horizon 2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. He said they are advocating the opportunity the agreement can offer, adding that the first Business Forum was in the North and the focus was textiles before the recent one in Lagos. According to him the EU Business Forum planned for Port Harcourt will hold in April, the programme and content will be sent to the Chamber He requested the Chamber to identify about 150 best participants for the one day seminar.

The President of PHCCIMA Dr. Emi Membere-Otaji in his response commended the European Union for their support than any other key countries like USA and China. He assured them of PHCCIMA partnership to host a successful Business Forum in Port Harcourt. He promised to extend participation to nearby States. He said the Ease of Doing Business is challenging, and added that businesses are feeling the impact of multiple taxation. He said only recently you have to go through 14 Agencies in the Ports in Lagos to clear your goods. He observed that the root cause of Nigeria’s problem is the availability of Oil Money concurrently shared from the federation account in Abuja.

He advised that the current down turn in oil price is a wake-up call to Government at all levels and the Private Sector to diversify, adding also that the only solution will be Government support to local enterprises as most of the companies in the Niger Delta are directly or indirectly related to oil and gas business. He solicited for encouragement of intra African trade and intra Country trade, and development of the oil and gas value chain, building more fertilizer plants and petrochemical companies, as well as development of the Sea Ports in the South South region. He requested the EU Ambassador to establish a Consular Service Centre for European countries in Port Harcourt. He promised to look into opportunities the EU–EPA can offer beyond the Enterprise European Network EEN and to leverage on the EU for other business support. He presented copies of the 1st and 2nd editions of the Commerce Port Harcourt Magazine to the Ambassador and Mr. Filippo Amato. The Chamber will send copies of the 2nd edition of the Commerce Port Harcourt to the Embassy of Burkina Faso in Abuja for easy circulation. The Chamber is expected to source for other donor and finance organizations through a Consultant, saying a team to work with the Consultant shall be constituted soon.