17 травня 2012 року. Інтерв'ю Посла України В.В. Васильєва нігерійському виданню «Leadership»
Despite decades of interaction between Nigeria and Ukraine, the volume of trade between the two countries remains small. In this interview, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Nigeria, Mr. Valerii Vasyliev, explains some of the challenges facing trade between the two countries and efforts to address them. He spoke to EZRA IJIOMA and RUTH YAMTA.
— Tell us about yourself?
— I was born in Ukraine. In 1977, I graduated from the Faculty of International Relations and International Law, Tara Shevchenko Kyiv State University, with a degree in International Economy.
I have occupied different posts at industrial and scientific research works, party bodies, ministries and departments. Also, I have worked in the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. In the past 15 years, I have been working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
Abroad, I have served mainly in Asian countries, including 2005-2006 – as Charge d’Affaires of Ukraine to Turkmenistan. On August 10, 2009, I was appointed as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
— What do you make of Nigeria?
— I’ve never been to Africa before I came to Nigeria. Everything is very interesting for me here. The nature is wonderful, the customs and habits are very interesting in different regions, but the main thing – the people – are very friendly. I’ve met some of my former students of the same year in Kyiv State University, and I have also made new friends here.
— What is the thrust of Ukrainian/Nigerian relations?
— First of all, I would like to highlight the fact that Ukraine considers Nigeria as its key partner in Africa. The economic, trade and cultural ties between our two countries have gradually developed for decades. Both countries continue to invest a lot of efforts into strengthening their relations.
The partnership between the two countries can be traced back to the 1960s and 80s when thousands of Ukrainian specialists worked at the construction of industrial enterprises in Nigeria, and hundreds of Nigerian students studied in Ukrainian universities and institutes. During the Soviet era, Ukrainian engineers and technicians participated in building the most ambitious steel project in the West Africa - the construction and launch of Ajaokuta Steel Plant.
Nowadays, numerous Nigerian alumni from Ukrainian academic institutes work in government, educational and healthcare institutions and also in private businesses.
This year, we will mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between an independent Ukraine and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Currently, there are a number of Ukrainian-Nigerian joint ventures operating in Ukraine.
Large Ukrainian companies, such as AvtoKrAZ, a leading producer of heavy-duty trucks; Eurobudinvest, a construction company; Motor Sich, world-reputed manufacturer of electric power generators, and JSC Kvazar, producer of solar heating systems for industrial and household needs, have their products working in Nigeria.
We all remember how in August 2011, Ukrainian launch media, Dnepr, delivered Nigerian satellites, NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, to the orbit from the Russian launch pad at Yasny.
Ukraine is interested in deepening ties with Nigeria in the field of culture, science and education; that is, establishing direct relations between universities and institutes of the two countries. In 2011, more than 750 students from Nigeria were studying in Ukraine.
The willingness of Ukraine and Nigeria to deepen their relations in all spheres, the absence of divergence of views on matters of foreign policy and wide range of mutual interests among representatives of business circles in both countries show that Ukraine-Nigeria relations will further develop with increasing economic content, and Nigeria will remain one of the major partners of Ukraine in Africa.
— What is the volume of trade between the two countries?
— Despite declining trade volume in recent years due to the global financial crisis of 2008-2010, trade between the two countries rose to $225.8 million in 2011.
Nigerian exports to Ukraine continue to rise. Ukraine is interested in Nigeria’s cocoa and rubber while Nigeria imports Ukrainian steel, fertilizers and food.
Representatives of business circles of both countries believe that the opportunities of trade and economic cooperation between Ukraine and Nigeria are far from being exhausted. Powerful industrial and technological potential of Ukraine can be very helpful as Nigeria in intensifies its industrial development, in particular, for the expansion of the electric power generating facilities, the development of the transport infrastructure and the food-processing industry.
— What are some of the challenges faced by businesses between the two countries and what is your office doing to address these challenges?
— In my opinion, the lack of information on business opportunities in both countries is the main challenge to the development of business relations between Ukraine and Nigeria. Nigerian businesses prefer to deal with their traditional partners from the West and Asia.
At the same time, lack of information leads to the creation and circulation of all sorts of ‘prevailing views and myths’ about the unreliability of the partnership, risk of return investment, underdevelopment of the banking system, and other risks that contribute to mutual distrust between the business circles.
In this regard, one of the main tasks of the Embassy is to fill these information gaps. The Mission processes and distributes to the Ukrainian enterprises and organizations interested in the development of bilateral cooperation information on the financial and economic legislations of the host country, its macroeconomic indicators, perspective investment projects and tenders, interesting exhibitions and presentations.
Also, if we talk about the challenges, the impact of the global financial crisis on business relations between our countries should be noted. According to some estimates, due to its influence, the turnover between Ukraine and Nigeria lost from $20 to $30 million.
— What areas of cooperation is your office exploring to improve relations between the two countries?
— Ukraine is rich in natural resources, particularly in mineral deposits. Although oil and natural gas reserves in the country are not rich, it has other important energy sources, such as coal, hydroelectricity and nuclear fuel raw materials. Currently, five nuclear power plants are operating in Ukraine. Total production output provides our country with almost 14, 000 MW of electricity.
Our country produces energy that exceeds domestic needs and it is being exported to neighbouring countries such as Byelorussia (Belarus), Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania and others. Ukrainian companies can participate actively in Nigeria’s ongoing bold move to increase production of electricity.
The possession of a massive high-tech industrial base allows National Space Agency of Ukraine (NSAU) to produce artificial satellites and launch vehicles. We have assisted Nigeria in delivering its satellites to space. In the meantime, NSAU participates in five international space commercial programmes.
We also have a developed aircraft industry. Aircraft Design Bureau, named after Antonov, has produced a wide range of aircraft since 1952; among them are the largest strategic airlifters - Ruslan and Mriya, and the most economical medium-range military and cargo aircraft – AN-70. The production of Antonov’s includes passenger, cargo, troops transport aircraft for domestic, short-haul, medium-range and long distance air services.
Its planes are fairly acknowledged as some of the best in the world. Thus, the Nigerian government and private businesses can access this industry.
Another important branch of Ukrainian industry is shipbuilding. Mykolayiv State Design Bureau is the most capable ship building enterprise not only in Ukraine and Russia, but in Europe as well. Its capacities allow the building of any type of vessel, starting from patrol boats up to cruisers, both military and industrial vessels.
Also, Ukraine is very famous for its ferrous metal industry, production of steel and pipes. In the chemical industry, 70 per cent of urea consumed by Nigeria arrives from Ukraine.
Nigeria is interested in Ukraine’s companies’ participation in the establishment of enterprises for the production of fertilizers, water treatment systems and drilling equipment. There are good prospects of collaboration in high technology industries, in particular, aerospace and telecommunications.
Taking into consideration the interest of the Nigerian side towards industrial and technological opportunities of Ukraine, I believe that Ukrainian companies could effectively participate in implementation of various projects such as the development of gas transport system in Nigeria; participation in the construction of the main Trans-Saharan pipeline and other gas pipelines; exploration and mining of coal, iron ore and other industrial minerals; increasing the volume of electricity generation and development of electricity network in Nigeria and the reconstruction and modernization of metallurgical companies, including Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
Also, among the promising areas of collaboration are participation in development and operation of Nigerian gas fields, marginal oil fields; modernization and construction of road and rail communication networks; establishing of supply a wide range of road and rail vehicles of Ukrainian origin; projects of residential and industrial construction within the state programs; establishment of facilities in Nigeria for processing agricultural products as well as supply of food products of Ukrainian origin; garbage disposal and construction of refuse disposal plants.
We are also interested in the possible participation of Ukrainian heavy power engineering companies in the energy sphere of Nigeria. We know that Nigerian government intends to make considerable investments in development of its energy sector and we want to take part in such projects.
The hi-tech products of the Ukrainian engineering enterprises have successfully proved to be incredibly reliable in many countries of the world.
They often work in extremely difficult climatic conditions, for example in Russian Siberia and in African deserts. Unfortunately, I have to admit that the production of Ukrainian energy machineries present in Nigeria is in small quantity.
I consider that cooperation in economic sphere could create the essential momentum for further convergence of Ukrainian and Nigerian interests.
— Given Ukraine’s recent past and independence, how is it coping with the demands of the international community?
— Ukraine has always been an active member of the international community, even during the times
of the USSR. It is necessary to recollect that in 1945, it was one of the founding members of the United Nations.
Becoming an independent country in the years 1999-2001, Ukraine served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Now, Ukraine is a member or an observer in more then 30 international and regional organizations, such as World Trade Organisation (WTO), UN, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others.
Since 1994, the main foreign policy objective of Ukraine is to become a member of European Union, and now we are close to realizing this aspiration.
Ukraine also has made a substantial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations since 1992. Now Ukraine is represented in four UN peacekeeping missions in Africa – Sudan, Liberia, Congo Democratic Republic and Cote d’Ivoire.
I would like to stress that Ukraine is the first, and so far remains the only one country which renounced nuclear weapons and destroyed its nuclear arsenal, one of the most powerful in the world. Ukraine maintains peaceful and constructive relations with all its neighbours.
— How prepared is Ukraine to host 2012 Euro Cup?
— The organization of UEFA Euro 2012 is a joint Ukrainian-Polish project and we have been working together for more than four years and our progress is very remarkable.
If you look at Ukraine and Poland today and compare it with what was four or five years ago - and it’s not just about stadiums, but also other infrastructure - it can be argued that few European countries will be able to compete with the holders of the future tournament.
Ukraine and Poland preparedness for the 2012 European Football Championship is 95 per cent done.
Ukraine has got four new airports with three new runways, and it has also prepared four stadiums. We have actually accomplished these within 18 months. No one in Europe has experienced this kind achievement before. I am convinced that the tournament will be held at a high level.
We expect a big boom and this has been confirmed by the dynamics of ticket sales. Our stadiums are now 90-95 per cent filled.
This means that we have a lot of guests and people will come to us not, only with tickets, but without tickets. The draw was such that the teams that traditionally come accompanied with huge armies of fans - Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, England - will play in Ukraine. Therefore, there will be no lack of communication on our part. Guests will come from different corners of the world and applications for tickets were received from 206 countries and territories.