By Chukwudi Enekwechi
Nigeria and Poland established diplomatic relations in the 1960s. Since then, both countries have enjoyed good political relations. It is important to highlight that bilateral relations between Nigeria and Poland have been marked by mutual cooperation and support for each other in the international force. On its part, Poland regards Nigeria as one of its most important partners in sub- Saharan Africa.
Though the balance of trade between Nigeria and Poland is in favour of Poland, the prospects are encouraging. For example, in 2011, Poland’s exports to Nigeria amounted to USD 72, 507 million, while Nigeria’s exports to Poland stood at USD 11,256 million.
It is also necessary to highlight that the main exports of Poland to Nigeria includes paper products, metal constructions, hardboards, tractors, armored vehicles and condensed milk. Poland is also famous for manufacturing fishing trawlers, barges aeroplanes, helicopter spare parts, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, textiles and agro-industrial products.
Conversely, Nigeria exports crude oil, cocoa, beans and cakes, natural butter, gum, Arabic, cashew nuts, shea nuts, oil seeds, spices, handicraft and palm kernel to Poland.
Another area that Poland has a comparative advantage which Nigeria can benefit hugely from is in the education sector with the existence of several high profile universities some of which are up to three hundred years old. Nigeria can tap into the abundance technological knowledge to boost its technical know-how. For example, Poland’s technological expertise can be of immense use in the diversification programme of the federal government. The agriculture and mining sectors of the economy are areas Nigeria can conveniently deploy available Polish technology, equipment and machinery for maximal benefit.
Poland, as the 7th largest economy in the European Union, and Nigeria, with over 170 million people, have an opportunity to expand their frontiers or bilateral cooperation.
To further broaden the scope of bilateral relations, the Polish prime minister visited Nigeria from 11th – 14th April, 2013 with a high– powered government and business delegation. The visit offered Nigeria an opportunity to tap into Poland’s areas of strength, ranging from security, town planning/architecture, coal mining, agriculture to maritime. Similarly, the diversification of refineries and sources of fuel import in Poland provides limitless opportunities for Nigeria’s oil and gas companies.
Perhaps, it can be established that the lack of focused leadership in the past in Nigeria contributed to our failure to maximally utilise the numerous business and investment opportunities in Poland. Still, there is cause for celebration as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has raised the bar in Nigeria’s engagement with the country.
Presently, many countries view Nigeria favourably in terms of ease of doing business, as such bottlenecks as corruption and unnecessary bureaucracy are being removed. It is also important to give credit to the Polish Ambassador, His Excellency, Mr. Andrzej Dycha, who has endeavored to promote both countries’ bilateral relations, and consolidate on the gains of the country’s former envoys like Dr. Grzeforz Walinski.
There is the need to consolidate the improved trade relations between both countries. It is important to state that in 2011, Nigeria’s export products to Poland increased from N1.2 billion to N22 billion in 2013.
This significant increase translates to about 60 per cent and there is need to explore more areas of mutual benefit. Of particular interest is the fact that Poland in Europe and Nigeria’s huge population and market will be an additional value.
Furthermore, Poland is already a production hub in Europe, and Nigerian businesses can leverage on its expertise. This will not only increase the quality of Nigerian products, it will make it possible for Nigeria products to make an inroad into international markets.
Emerging manufacturers will also have the opportunity to acquire their sophisticated machinery from Poland, and the abundant technical know-how will be made available to Nigerian companies. From all perspectives, Nigeria-Poland bilateral relations is a win-win, as each country has areas of comparative advantage.
To further strengthen areas of mutual cooperation, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, will in March this year lead a high-powered delegation to Poland. Based on the principle of reciprocity, the visit will afford the Nigerian government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, an opportunity to offer the Polish government and people a hand of fellowship.
Definitely, the proactive and decisive approach of the current Ambassador of Poland, Mr. Andrzej Dyacha, and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, will go a long way to promote and cement the good relations between both countries.
Enekwechi is an Abuja-based Public Affairs Analyst