Closer ties with Nigeria
Thursday, August 9 2012
THE recent visit of Nigeria’s president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, while it was officially for the Emancipation Day celebrations, should beviewed in the broader context of an opportunity to develop expanded Trinidad and Tobago (TT) exports to the largest and most populous country in Africa. While Nigeria has long sought to have TT assist in the development of its energy industry, specifically natural gas, this country’s greatest assistance in this regard is clearly in the area of transfer of technology.
Additionally, TT should examine the possibility of exporting asphalt cement to Nigeria to be used not merely in the paving of roadways, but bridges, pavements and airport runways. It has long been demonstrated that the proper use of TT’s asphalt in the construction of roads, with the appropriate laying down of bases and sub-bases, has led to such roads, for example, the original Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, which was laid down in 1943, and the North Coast Road to Maracas Bay, both constructed by the Americans during World War II lasting for several decades.
Indeed, the proper use of asphalt would save Nigeria millions of dollars it would have spent otherwise on road repairs. Another major move would be in the export of TT’s cocoa, long hailed as the finest in the world, for blending with Nigeria’s cocoa, in Nigeria, for the production of fine chocolate. Nigeria and fellow West African country, Ghana, it should be noted, produce a greater volume of cocoa beans than anywhere else in the world.
As a result of Nigeria’s colonial past, however, the cocoa beans are exported at very low prices to the United Kingdom, where the cocoa is refined and the products, mainly finished chocolate, are then exported from the United Kingdom to Nigeria and other countries at very high prices. Nigeria, Ghana and other West African countries, although they are the largest producers of cocoa beans earn far less from this commodity than do the UK chocolate manufacturers.
There are tariffs as well as specific duties on cocoa beans, in addition to high internal taxes on refined chocolate products which are beneficial to the United Kingdom. TT, with the finest quality cocoa beans in the world and already moving into the production of high quality chocolate maybe able to position itself to assist Nigeria utilise the bulk of its cocoa bean crop for an internal chocolate industry.
Nigeria, whose principal export is crude oil, has for several years been placing increased emphasis on the production of natural gas and as we pointed out earlier TT could assist the West African nation in the area of transfer of technology. TT, one of the world’s earliest producers and exporters of crude oil is today a gas-based as opposed to an oil-based economy.
We are positioned today to supply Nigeria’s oil industry with chemical, civil, mechanical and petroleum engineers as well as geophysicists, geologists and paleontologists and its burgeoning natural gas industry with highly trained and skilled personnel as well.
In the process this will add to Nigeria’s national output, Government revenue and foreign exchange earnings. In the meantime, 70 Nigerian students are pursuing courses of study at TT’s National Energy Skills Centre (NESC), as a result of an agreement signed in December, last year, between the NESC and QESS Services Limited of Nigeria, a clear follow though to earlier initiatives.
The Nigerian nationals are being trained in such areas as heavy equipment operations, crane operations, metal arc welding and industrial mechanical maintenance. The importance of the training, which will lead to the development of needed skills, is underscored by the fact that machinery and transport equipment constitute the second principal import of Nigeria.
Clearly, the training programme which, doubtless, will not be one off is a step by the Nigerians to have an increasing number of nationals, who will be trained both in the operating and maintenance of heavy duty equipment and put an end to the need for non-nationals performing the same jobs in Nigeria.
Although Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head is approximately one-elevenths that of TT’s, nonetheless, its population is more than 90 times greater than that of TT’s and as such can provide an expanded market for this country’s goods and services. Any strengthening of this market would be a welcome move both for TT’s exports and the needed development of South-South cooperation.