Acknowledging that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Federal Republic of Nigeria are separated geographically, both countries have over the years emerged as major regional players in their respective regions and as such, have strong bilateral relations with countries beyond their regions.
This is the premise for increasing cooperation between both countries. Nigeria currently has the largest economy in Africa, with potentials to grow further in various sectors of its economy. In the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were ranked at the top for maintaining the best quality of living in the Middle East. Such ranking is attributed to high marks in the business environment, political and social environment, as well as in education and public services.
In addition to this, the UAE leads the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, in the global ranking of 140 countries, for global competitiveness.
A strong interest in enhancing the mutually beneficial relationship can be seen in the number of high-level bilateral visits over the past few years. The most recent visit occurred on April 8th 2019 when His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, delivered the keynote address at the 9th Annual Investment Meeting hosted in Dubai. As part of the invitation extended by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, President Buhari highlighted the significance of digital globalization, which has enabled innovation and transformative ideas that are here to stay.
The President also stated that the digital world has become the new frontier for both good and evil, citing the alleged recent use of cyberspace to manipulate elections, subvert the democratic rights of citizens as well as propagate violence.
Such remark challenges world leaders to ensure that this space is inclusive, accessible and safe.
As part of his official visit to Dubai, President Buhari also met with UAE investors in various sectors where they engaged in highly productive discussions around the shared interests of both nations.
This represented the vast potential for the two nations to further bolster new partnerships based on mutual respect, shared concerns and values.
There are tremendous opportunities for cooperation and investment between both countries. For example, increasing trade between both countries would enhance the drive for economic diversification.
To date, there are over 20 Nigerian trademarks registered with the Ministry of Economy in Dubai. The investments of Nigerians in the UAE rose to approximately USD 120 million in 2016, this being due to the ease of doing business policy of the UAE government. Also, the latest figures released in 2017 by the UAE Ministry of Economy showed that the overall bilateral non-oil trade between both countries is about USD 1.2 billion.
The two main UAE airlines (Emirates and Etihad Airways) operate a combined 22 flights weekly from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Lagos and Abuja.
This is set to increase to 25 flights a week, as Emirates airline is increasing its Dubai to Abuja route from the current 4 flights a week to 7 flights a week (daily) starting June 1st 2019. This increase in weekly flights can be attributed to the UAE’s booming tourism industry, in addition to new investment opportunities being explored by both countries.
The possibility for both economies to achieve even more with deeper synergies exists, but to achieve this it is imperative to establish the right legislative infrastructure. The UAE has always viewed Nigeria a key partner and as such, signed several bilateral agreements with Nigeria during President Buhari’s visit to the UAE in January 2016.
This includes the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement and the Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement. Both have been ratified by the UAE in July 2017, but are currently awaiting ratification by Nigeria before they become effective. When in full effect, these agreements will further promote and protect mutual investments.
Aside from strengthening bilateral relations to promote further economic prosperity, the UAE also supports Nigeria in the humanitarian and development sphere.
This is backed by the fact that for the fifth year in a row, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) named the country as the world’s largest international aid donor compared to its gross national income (GNI). It must also be noted that the UAE’s aid objectives are not limited by geography, race, colour or religion of the beneficiary. In the contrary, the country holds a strong belief that all people deserve an improved quality of life, regardless of their background.
Throughout the year, the UAE Embassy in Abuja plans, coordinates and executes various humanitarian-related activities and initiatives to benefit underprivileged communities all over Nigeria. As recently as April 23rd 2019, representatives from the Noor Dubai Foundation — a UAE non-governmental charity organization — signed an agreement with Katsina State government officials to establish the Katsina Comprehensive Eye Care Centre.
This initiative is significant because it aims to improve the quality of life and socioeconomic welfare of millions of people in Katsina and neighbouring states through increased access to quality and affordable eye care services.
In addition, this large-scale project aims to provide a socioeconomic yield of USD 8 million in increased productivity for people.
Providing healthcare resources is something that the UAE is proud to do, as this is one of the pillars of our country’s foreign policy to improve the quality of life for all populations.
The recent inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria marked the commencement of the second term of their administration. This event presents more prospects to strengthen mutual cooperation between both nations in all areas of interest.
The UAE looks forward to further solidifying its existing relationship with Nigeria. It is important that we take advantage of our capabilities and unleash our potential to strive above expectations and push the boundaries of partnerships, allowing for a bright and progressive future for both nations.
His Excellency Dr. Fahad Obaid Al Taffaq
United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Nigeria
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