By Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja
The South Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, Young-Chae Kim, has said that the falling prices of oil and gas, delay in ports and high shipping costs, have negatively impacted bilateral trade between his country and Nigeria.
Ambassador Kim, who spoke to journalists in Abuja on the occasion of his 100 days in office, said volume of trade between South Korea and Nigeria fell from $4.6b in 2017 to $1.2bn in 2020 as a result of the decrease of the prices of oil and gas.
He also noted that the month-long delay in ports of exported and imported goods in and outside of Nigeria, in addition to the high shipping costs contributed to the steady decrease in trade between both countries in the past few years.
“Our survey of Korean companies on other obstacles to bilateral trade indicated that delays in the Apapa Port where they had to wait for a month to export products out of Nigeria, and another month’s wait on the sea to import their products into Nigeria are major challenges. These, and also the rise in shipping costs affect the competitiveness of Nigeria’s products negatively,” Kim said.
Meanwhile in order to impove bilateral trade between both countries, Kim said he met with the director of the Nigeria Export Promotions Council (NEPC) to discuss strategies to create conducive environment for Korean and Nigerian private businesses to thrive.
“We have to ensure that export-import are done by the private sector and not by government. government should be just middlemen, the facilitators. We have to make sure that private companies can do this easily; and that when they export ensure the shipping is efficient.
“Korea imports lots of sesame seed largely from Ethiopia which I know Nigeria has, and also imports a lot of corn which Nigeria produces. If there is profit for the private businesses, they import. If there is no profit they don’t import. We have to encourage private to do more imports and exports by providing the conducive environment for them to do so,’’ he stated.
The ambassador revealed that as part of bilateral cooperation with Nigeria, South Korea has embarked on a trilateral cooperation project with Katsina State farmers and Dangote Group in rice production.
Deploying the Rural Village Movement, a strategy used in transforming Korea’s agricultural system from yearlings to farming to sales, distribution and food processing in 1960s, the pilot project ensures Korea agency provides the seedling and technology to Katsina State farmers, while Dangote Group will purchase and sell the farmers’ rice.
‘‘It’s a very significant project. If, as a farmer I produce rice but cannot sell, it’s useless. So, we have to think holistically. Rice and farming itself is not farming, but are closely related with commercial activities. We want to cultivate farming and agriculture at the countryside, and look at how farmers produce, but also sell efficiently and proficiently,’’ he said.
Noting as unfortunate, the news of Nigerian farmers fleeing their farmlands for fear of being kidnapped, Kim urged for increased peace and security cooperation between Nigeria and other countries of the sub-region to maintain law and order.
‘‘Insecurity affects every aspect of life. To resolve the problem Nigeria needs international cooperation largely with its neighbouring countries. Nigeria needs to make peace in the region to enhance security,’’ he added.
Korea, he said aims to strengthen defense collaboration with Nigeria beyond the commercial between Korean companies and Nigeria’s Ministry of Defense via military exhibition of artillery, small arms, tankers, and sales of military vehicles by Kia and Hyundai automobile brands, to intelligence sharing.
‘‘Our military is number 6 in the world in military defense, and number 6 in the globe in military spending. Our new defense attaché, the first after a long time is strengthening Korea’s relationship with the Nigeria defense team,” he noted.
On the proposed defense collaboration initiated by Kim’s predecessor, Lee In Tae (rtd), Kim said demands one-on-one dialogue with both nations’ ministers of defense to set out modalities, and a scheduled invitation of Nigeria’s ministry of defense to Korea later in the year.