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Interview with the COO on Enterprise Africa News (August 4, 2014)

Interview with the COO on Enterprise Africa News (August 4, 2014)

JENNIFER IJEOMA ANOYIKA is a middle-class, British-born Nigerian of Igbo parents in the Eastern part of the country. Equipped with sound academic trainings and attainments in Britain, Anoyika also studied German language in Germany before returning to Nigeria in 2008. In this insightful interaction with Enterprise Africa, the Chief Operating Officer (COO), of the Nigerian-German Business Association (NGBA), in her office on Vitoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, unveils the core sectors of the economy that offer business/investment opportunities to both Nigerian and German businessmen and women to create wealth, supportive business regulations and trade policies, fundamental objectives of establishing the Association and criteria for membership of NGBA. Anoyika as well sheds light on the concept of head hunting services, technology transfer for local capacity building, and available technical assistance for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria and Germany, among others. Excerpts:

Fundamental objective of the Nigerian-German Business Association

The fundamental objective is to foster trade relations between Nigeria and Germany. We at the Nigerian-German Business Association (NGBA) have the opportunity to touch the businessmen and businesswomen at the grassroots, small, medium and micro business people, and also the opportunity as an association to reach the government. Within Nigeria, we have an arm on both sides. We can speak to the government on behalf of the small, medium-sized businessman or we can take the issues of the small, medium-sized businessman over to the government with lots of dialogue and advocacy on the Nigerian side. But then, again, we have the German relations in which German companies that are interested in coming to Nigeria would like to meet with the Nigerian businessmen; they come to us. The difference between us and the German Chambers of Commerce is that the latter is an institution run and funded by the German Government, producing similar services as we do, which are aimed at promoting trade. But the primary difference between them and us is that we are a membership organisation; so we have members. The Nigerian companies come and register with us as members, whereas the Chambers of Commerce don’t have members.

Specific criteria required to become a member of the Nigerian-German Business Association

Regularly, we expand on that criteria, but the fundamental criterion is that the company has an interest in doing business in Germany or with German partners and vice-versa, that is, doing business in Nigeria. But we have expanded on that, as it can also be an interest in tourism and visitation to Germany, besides using the network of the German Chambers worldwide. So, we have companies which are primarily just Nigerian companies that are yet to establish any form of business relationship with Germany. But they want to be part of the Association (NGBA) to be informed and aware of potential opportunities that could come in from that market.

Core sectors of the economy the NGBA targets

We have no bias. So, we cover all sectors and we do as much as we can to promote the sector that is of interest to the businessman. We start with an enquiry which could be in any sector, and we develop it from there. As I said earlier, we are non- for-profit organisation and we foster trade without prejudice.

Identifying existing business and investment opportunities in Nigeria and Germany respectively

At the moment, there are so many opportunities to do business in Nigeria. We have our phones ringing and quite buzzing because we know about the rebasing of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We know that we have a very fat middle class, and still growing in population size. There is so much information out there about Nigeria becoming the market to look into. As a result, we have a lot of companies calling in to do business in Nigeria.

An insight into the bilateral business regulations and trade policies between the two countries

The Nigerian-German relations date back to over 30 years ago. I do believe that a former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, travelled to Germany and he had a meeting there, and then there was a cultural agreement that was signed at the time. Most recently, an energy partnership agreement was signed between the German and Nigerian Presidents. About three years ago, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan visited Germany, and then, we had German Angela Merkel visit Nigeria. Late Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua also, worked on the visitations to Germany, and obviously, Chief Obasanjo started the relations. On a political level, there is a bi-national commission that has been established; there is an energy partnership already established; there is a cultural partnership that has also been established between Germany and Nigeria. Currently, further sectors are building on that form of relations. So, we are looking into agriculture, small farming projects through the Small and Medium Enterprise Development of Nigeria (SMEDAN), which is a body funded by the country’s Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, in Abuja. It is a continual process and we have lots of agreements and partnerships already established and both governments have exchanged visits between their countries, at least within the last 10 years.

Germany has one of the most stable economies in Europe but the Asian market is also competing strongly for the African economy.  Describe the volume of trade between Germany and Nigeria.

We all know that the Asian market has done a lot of volume in all markets, including America and we know why. So, all the other countries are either planning strategies or looking for ways to introduce themselves to other markets. The Germans are doing very well over here. No matter what, Nigerians still, do like good quality. They like their cars, roads and good quality products. They want to be aware of the prices and offers from China and other countries. We have over 500 loyal members who have done business with Germany and they still would prefer to do business with the German market. This is in respect of the quality of engineering and know-how that come from Germany as well as the services. There are a lot of German companies that are now placing their footprints in Nigeria to offer after-sales services on their machinery.

Reasons the Asian market is booming around the world, including in the Americas

 We know that a lot of the products are being made at more affordable and competitive prices and in larger volumes and they have entered the market without fear. There are a different culture and type of people; so they are pretty capable of walking into a market without fear. We have to sensitise the German companies to know that in spite the fact that there are issues in terms of security within Nigeria, they can still come into Lagos or any other state to do business and invest. And, if they are really afraid of doing so, we have security companies here that can provide the type of security needed to operate successfully. Chinese companies might not have that amount of fear. As much as they have affordable products, their mobility and penetration of the market is quite faster than others.

Efforts at ensuring adequate technology transfer for local capacity-building

Yes. That is one of our major projects which we are very keen on promoting. In Germany, most people go into technical training (vocational training) for production which is dual training. Within house, we at Nigerian-German Business Association, in collaboration with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) is partnering with experts from Germany to enable professionals come into Nigeria regularly to instruct selected people and businesses in vocational training. So, we are bringing vocational training. We also have other products that will enable us take Nigerians over to Germany to have one-year training, education and they can be recruited by one of the German companies. We are very concerned about vocational training and know-how. We are working with the Dangote Group as well as with the Ogun  and Lagos state governments of Nigeria for dual vocational training.

Managing right perceptions and nation branding between German and Nigerian partners, as regards issues of sharp practices, fractions and misconceptions

We do a lot through media partnerships to ensure that we promote and depict that Nigeria is not as bad as they think it is. So, we partner with the media. We also open up the market for delegation; we had 16 companies that just returned to Germany not too long ago and they are top companies in technology, food processing and packaging. So, we organise road shows for them to come into Nigeria and visit all the factories in the food processing industry. Most of them had never been to Nigeria before then. If you visit their Web site, you will see that it was a successful trip and they met with all the Nigerian production companies, from the small ice-cream man producer up to the Nestlé, Unilever and 7Up Bottling Company. But, we are inviting and preparing a nice/efficient road show for them to go back (to Germany) and report that one can come to Nigeria and that there are opportunities in Nigeria and it is safe as a great country. That is the report they went back with, all with a lot of publicity, organisation and delegate fact- finding missions.

Certainly opportunities come with challenges. Relate basic challenges of NGBA

Well as with any other association, it has to do with getting our members to pay their fees/dues because the economy goes through ups and downs. As we all know, business fortunes fluctuate in Nigeria. Nigerian businessmen are most resourceful, changing their sectors quite quickly. If a sector is not working, they move into the next one. Sometimes during down times, they don’t support us as well as they should have. That is a challenge because we are primarily funded by our members. The Nigerian-German Business Association doesn’t get any fund from either the Nigerian or German government. Notwithstanding, we do have very large loyalty; so we have members who are paying their membership fees. We try to provide our members with many opportunities to carry on and prosper in business. This is our priority. So, we promote and encourage their businesses, using the media platforms because if they read Enterprise Africa Magazine, it will encourage them to see that they are members of this association, are proud of it, and that they will probably pay their membership dues. This is a challenge and we are overcoming it.

Besides technical support, any financial assistance for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)?

No, because we are non-for-profit organisation. We don’t provide financial assistance but we like to partner with companies that provide financial, technical and professional assistance. We have a group of partners like I said earlier; the Chambers of Commerce is our No.1 partner in this regard. We seat in the same office. As our No.1 partner, they are in 80 countries having about 120 locations of the Chambers of Commerce around the world on five continents. Members of the Nigerian-German Business Association have connections, through this partnership, to 120 locations in the world. For example, some of our members do want to go to China and we say if they want to go to China, then, they will have to be invited by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. So, they will be invited by the Germans, you will meet German companies in China, and then, the Germans will organise your event through that partnership. Subsequently, we have the DG which is a German bank putting together small and medium-sized packages for our members and for the Nigerian market. We partner with others. We don’t finance ourselves, but find partners who can assist our members.

Rationale for and benefit of the concept of Head Hunting Services in Nigeria and Germany

Head hunting is looking for the right manpower. We are in the local content era when you have to prove that you have local content and we like that. The automobile industry is looking a little bit saddened for those at the grassroots at the moment because of the new tax policy that they have to put up with. But, I understand it’s to promote local content so that we start manufacturing our products here, as Made in Nigeria or Assembled in Nigeria or Certified in Nigeria.  Head hunting is going to be a big thing because in order for us to build local content, we probably have to find Nigerians from all over the world and from within the country. Within the NGBA, we are trying to work with head hunting German and Nigerian firms that are head hunters as partners and members. When they look for local content, expertise and administrative staff, we try and help them.

 Replicating the annual world-class Xibit Hannover event in Nigeria?

Yes. We are now working on building the biggest Trade Fair in Nigeria. The first one that we are going to start with is in the food processing and packaging industry because we are developing agriculture with large population and lots of mouths to feed. This is to ensure that our meat and fish are wrapped properly with our milk and other food items well-packaged to provide jobs via trade fairs which will be an enormous opportunity for lots of people. So, we are looking at April 2015 when we will have the largest food and packaging fair in Lagos, Nigeria. We are also considering working with other Fairs to bring them to Lagos as well. You will see lots of Trade Fairs as well as events that we put together to promote trade.

 Nigerian-German Business Association (NGBA) in five years’ time

One of our major dreams and visions was for us to merge with the Chambers of Commerce to become one company as a proper Chamber of Commerce. The second one, obviously, is for the Nigerian-German Business Association to have more testimonies and success stories from our members and trade relations between Germany and Nigeria.

Advice for the stakeholders in Nigerian-German Business Association

My advice for them is not to give up on us but to keep on supporting us to do the best we can to foster trade between Nigeria and Germany.

 Meeting with Mrs. Jennifer Ijeoma Anoyika

Jennifer Ijeoma Anoyika tells you a lot. The middle name can tell you that I am from the Igbo region of Nigeria. I am one of those middle-class Nigerians who have returned from the Diaspora, a British-born Nigerian of Igbo parents. Quite a bit of my training was done in Britain, part of which was also in Germany where I studied German language. I returned to Nigeria in 2008. A prosperous businessman brought me back to Nigeria for me to support him with his large ideas. And then after a while, I got ‘hunted’ by the Nigerian-German Business Association, clearly from my business background as well as my understanding of the language and the people because I have lived in Germany for about four years. And now I’m home in Nigeria for about six years, and I’ve got two boys living in Nigeria.

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