Lagos - The volume of trade between Nigeria and Spain stood at seven billion euro in 2012, the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Alvaro Aguilar, said on Saturday.
Aguilar made the disclosure at a briefing to herald the 2nd Nigeria-EU Business Forum organised by the EU Delegation to Nigeria.
The forum will hold in Lagos between October 3 and 4. He said that oil and gas accounted for 98 per cent of the country’s import volume from Nigeria.
“Spanish investments in Nigeria have increased by 25 per cent in the last year,” Aguilar said. “In our commercial office in Lagos as well as our embassy in Abuja, almost every week we have new Spanish companies coming to Nigeria.”
He said the companies are interested in several sectors including infrastructure, construction, pharmaceuticals and industrial agreements.
The ambassador said that Spain was the fourth largest EU trading partner to Nigeria and observed that trade deficit which stood at about 400 million euro favoured Nigeria.
Also speaking, the Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria, Dirk Verheyen, put the volume of imports from Nigeria at three billion euro.
He said that Belgium was the third largest importer of goods from Nigeria, 'majority of which are from the oil and gas sector.’
On the 2nd Nigeria-EU Business Forum, Andre Ronne, a Delegate of German Industry and Commerce, disclosed that 12 EU member countries have signified their intentions to participate.
Ronne said countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
“It is an exchange platform for European and Nigerian companies, particularly in the private sector,” he said.
“The EU private sector stands for good quality products, reliability and interest in long term relations with countries like Nigeria.”
Highlighting the importance of European-Nigeria trade and commerce, the German official said: “Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa second largest economy after South Africa and the most promising business destination now for European companies.
“If they are interested in doing business in the continent it is definitely Nigeria.
“This is particularly so because South Africa is considered to be a saturated development market,’’ he said.
Ronne said that the forum would discuss the major challenges facing the Nigerian economy and proffer solutions, based on the viewpoint of the European private sector.
“One of the challenges is security, related to oil theft and the situation in Niger Delta and also related to the North,’’ he said.
He however commended the Nigerian government for doing quite a lot to create a stable business environment, particularly in Lagos.
Paulette Van Trier, an official of the Nigerian-Belgian Commercial Information and Documentation Centre, said a major challenge for the forum was to change the perception of European companies on Nigeria.
“One of the main reasons for the forum is not only to create a platform for European business but also what we are trying to do is to get people from Europe to have confidence in Nigeria,” she said.
“We are still after so many years battling with the same thing; the bad image of Nigeria and we have been trying to create confidence in Nigeria among Europeans,’’ she said.
Trier maintained that Europe still remained the “best trading partner for Nigeria, for distance, for quality and for the fair services we provide.
“We can be more expensive for tools, machinery but we are the best in advices and training,’’ she said.
Trier predicted that the forum would grow to become World Economic Summit, adding “we started small with two countries but we have grown to twelve’’.
Massimso De Luca, Trade Counsellor, EU delegation to Nigeria, said three key areas had been identified for discussion at this year’s forum.
He said that energy, infrastructure and agriculture were the sectors that would receive attention because they held the key to bringing development beyond growth in Nigeria.
On agriculture, De Luca said that the forum would work toward helping Nigerian businesses export their agricultural produce to Europe.
De Luca said that after the maiden forum, several European companies had indicated interest to invest in Nigeria.
“Investments have occurred over the past years and we have companies that are preparing very big for Nigeria,” he said.
De Luca also disclosed that the 2013 European Film Festival would take place in Lagos from October 4 to October 7 immediately after the forum.
He added that the EU delegation would organise a fashion show during the business forum.