AUSTRALIA STAKES INTEREST IN NIGERIA'S MINING SECTOR
WITH $20 billion Australian investment fund floating around 40 African nations, the country plans to step up its mining cooperation with Nigeria.
The move, according to analysts, could jumpstart the nation's moribund mining sector and thereby, help to diversify the Nigerian economy, which has for decades relied on crude oil as its sole revenue backbone. The partnership to diversify the Nigerian economy, according to the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria Ian McConville, is being given real impetus now on account of the shared sense of common values between the two countries, which have, unfortunately taken the back seat for years.
The volume of trade between Nigeria and Australia hit the $330 million mark by the close of last year. 80 percent of the two way trade is in Nigeria's favour with imports amounting to about $20 million, while reverse export stands at over $300 million, made up mainly crude oil.
Two of the world's top three mining companies in the world (BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto)are Australian. The country is also a known exporter of plastic plates, sheets and film, animal fats and oil, milk and cream and specialised machinery parts.
Speaking on this trade imbalance and the necessary diversification of the Nigerian economy, McConville said: 'Now the challenge for us is to diversify… it's pretty much ,round about 80 percent of what's coming into Australia from Nigeria is oil. The other very prospective area for trade, commercial, integration linkages is in mining. This is where Australia has a very strong expertise and focus. And although at this stage, the mining story here has been more or less…There are a number of companies that are based here, Australian companies , undertaking exploration work across a whole range of minerals. Now, they are in the early days, at this stage nothing has reached the stage of development of interracial mines and attracting investment into exploitation of those resource, it is an exciting area and one that activities are already happening in Nigeria with the participation and inputs of Australian companies.'
High Commissioner McConville also shed light on the vexed issue of the non processing of Australian visas for Nigerians in Nigeria. Stressing that the point has been noted and slated for remedy, he also said with the advancing reliance on the Common Virtual File System (VFS), that would soon be a thing of the past.
He spoke further: 'There is absolutely no doubt that Nigeria is a mining potential success story. It has enormous reserves, and it is a case of getting the right policies, the right plans to work together and bring the projects to some kind of fruition. I am not pretending that it is going to be easy because there are challenges. But the geology for this region indisputably is rich in minerals and as has been observed by a number of well placed and very experienced experts in the geology field and as I mentioned , we have $20 billion of investments at least in mining projects across 40 countries in Africa… So we have it. Our economy is driven by the exploitation of minerals, Iron ore, Coal, gold, alumina, bauxite, Nicole and a lot of the precious minerals and many of those deposits have been identified in West Africa and obviously some of these countries have moved forward through necessity as is the case with Nigeria. Nigeria, the focus has been as we know, on oil and gas and has sustained the development of the country for decades but it is now recognised that Nigeria needs to diversify and of course this is the area where already the potential is there, and just needs to be tapped… There is nothing sort of like big tickets items that exists. Our trade links, I think it fluctuates a bit and it does highlight that there are very much more that can be done because it really is disappointing that we can have about the same size of trade relationship with Nigeria as we do with Mauritius but one area where I am very interested in is Education…'
He also dwelt on the general framework of relations between Nigeria and Australia stating 'Our relationship is underpinned by a shared sense of common values. Those values derive from our commonwealth legacies. We have a strong perceptions of democracy and freedom of expression. The healthy state of journalism here is an example of that. We have a strong opinion of the value of human dignity and finally we have a shared sense of the importance of the importance of development, for every country to ensure a reasonable standard of living for its population.
Understanding of those basic human necessities which are also articulated in the Millennium development goal.
The relationship between Nigeria and Australia has more to it than just these shared common values . The other important element of our relationship has to do with having a strong focus international contribution to peacekeeping and so Nigeria and Australia have had some very good collaborations- Darfur, Somalia, Sudan more generally, some of the other peacekeeping operations that that Nigeria has been very much instrumental in leading not just only in Africa but also across the globe in the world. So there is a strong sense of cooperation that exists at the sort of strategic, political, military and peacekeeping level'.