In this Interview, Mexican Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb Alejandro Moreno bares his mind on how both countries have worked closely in areas such as nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, climate change, small and light arms control and sustainable development goals. Excerpt:
By Fiona Freddy
What is the state of the relations between Mexico and Nigeria?
In 2016, Mexico and Nigeria celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations. In this regard, the relationship between both countries is a fairly recent one and still in the stage of consolidation. However, in the past few years, both countries have realized the importance of strengthening political and economic relations.
The importance of the relationships stems in part from our similarities. Both Mexico and Nigeria are emerging powers and regional leaders, we have predominantly young populations with expanding middle classes. Both are multi-cultural nations with a rich tapestry of traditions, languages and culture.
In the multilateral arena, Mexico and Nigeria have been key allies in many of the most important topics on the international agenda. Both countries have worked closely together in areas such as nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, climate change, small and light arms control and sustainable development goals.
Additionally, in 2015, Mexico resumed its participation in UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs). In this regard, my country has expressed great interest in learning more about Nigeria´s vast experience in PKOs and in 2016, a delegation from the National Defense College of Nigeria imparted a lecture on this matter in the National College of Defense in Mexico.
What is the volume of trade between Mexico and Nigeria?
In 2015, the volume of trade between Mexico and Nigeria hit a little more than $600 million USD. While this might not seem as high as one would like, it is important to note that in 2000, the volume of trade between our countries barely reached $24 million USD. This means that the volume of trade grew 20 times over in just 15 years.
Nigeria´s main exports to Mexico are natural gas, wheat based animal feed, cocoa paste and sesame seeds. Mexico´s main exports to Nigeria are prefabricated constructions and tubing and valves for use in the petroleum industry.
Additionally, Mexico and Nigeria have a solid institutional and legal frame work aimed at facilitating bilateral commerce. We have Memoranda of Understanding between NIPC and NEPC and its Mexican counterpart known as ProMexico, as well as with NEXIM Bank and the Mexican Bancomext.
In 2014, the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NMCCI) was established as an organisation created to promote development of Nigerian and Mexican economic relations by creating a platform for individuals and business communities to network and develop their common interests.
The same year, NMCCI subscribed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU with the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology (COMCE). Every year, since 2015, there have been trade Missions traveling either to Mexico or to Nigeria in order to foster the growth of commercial relations between both countries.
This year´s Mission will be to Mexico and is scheduled to take place in October 2017. We are expecting to attend, with a Nigerian Delegation, the Mexico Business Summit.
What is Mexico Business Summit?
Over its 15 years of existence, the Mexico Business Summit has become the number one economic and business event in the region. Expanding its footprint to cover, not only Mexico’s future, but the key strategic issues common to, or impacting on, the whole Latin America.
The Mexico Business Summit is the platform to gain new insights and impact on strategic new trends combining regional and national perspectives.
As an impartial, non-partisan, non profit event, the Summit is a unique platform for an outcome-oriented dialogue among the key stakeholders on the policy options and the corporate initiatives that will boost Mexico’s and the region’s growth and will expand the country’s connections on the global scene.
What areas of improvement is the Mexican Government looking at in its relationship with Nigeria?
Mexico´s main objective at the moment is to strengthen the economic ties between both countries. My principal goal as Mexico´s new envoy to Nigeria will be to promote economic cooperation and trade. At a time where both countries are looking to diversify their products and trade partners, it is crucial that we look to each other and realize the potential in our relationship.
What is the volume of Foreign Direct Investment from Mexico to Nigeria in the last 3 years?
At the moment, the volume of Direct Foreign Investment (FDI) is not as high as we would want it to be. However this is increasingly changing. Just this year, the Mexican company Omnilife (the largest producer of food supplements in the world) has begun to break grounds in order to begin operations in Nigeria.
One of the main goals of this year´s Trade Mission will be to partner Nigerian businessmen and entrepreneurs with potential investors in Mexico. I believe that these continuous efforts will aid a great deal in the growth of Mexican FDI in Nigeria.
How many Nigerians have been awarded scholarships to study in Mexico?
The number of Nigerian students who look to Mexico as an option for their academic studies is increasing. Many are taking advantage of scholarship programs that Mexico´s government offers foreign students.
In this regard, we have seen particular interest in scientific and technical programs such as biotechnology, chemistry, robotics and mechanical engineering. Additionally, many academics are looking to Mexico to pursue advanced degrees such as MBA´s and PHD´s.
We also have legal framework in the area of education which is important to take advantage of:
Agreement for Educative and Cultural Cooperation between the Government of the United Mexican States and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Memorandum of Understanding between the National Universities Commission of Nigeria (NUC) and the National Association of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education of Mexico (ANUIES).
I am looking forward to establishing a close relationship with Nigerian Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning to further advance academic exchange between our countries.