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Nigeria Will Benefit Tremendously From Free Trade Agreements

Nigeria Will Benefit Tremendously From Free Trade Agreements

Chief Executive Officer of Deutsche Post DHL Group, Mr. Frank Appel, who was in Nigeria recently, spoke on the opportunities in the country and other African countries as well as the expansion drive of his company. Obinna Chima presents the excerpts:

There are concerns about low intra-trade in Africa. What should be done for it to improve?

The best things countries can do, like they do even in developed countries is to open their borders and create free trade because these are tremendous opportunities for growth. So, the idea to create an African Union like the European Union with free trade all over the place would be a fantastic idea. Particularly, Nigeria will benefit tremendously from that I have no doubt. So there is a huge opportunity for the continent to really create free trade agreement which is of course not easy to do.

I think that will be a step forward for the whole continent in the push for growth. I said it in Asia, I said it in Germany about the American-European trade agreement, and wherever I go I talk always about it. We have made a study with a University in Spain where we analysed how the human development index is and how much countries are connected. The most connected countries of the world have the highest human development index and most of them are in Europe. The Netherlands is number one.

Singapore is an example from Asia, very open, free trade is possible. Singapore came from more or less an area like Lagos. They did that by opening their borders to other countries and investing heavily in infrastructure and education. I think if Nigeria follows that model and get free trade agreements with many neighbors it will be a tremendous push for the economy.

Looking at the fact that e-commerce is growing rapidly in Nigeria and logistics is equally a challenge when it comes to moving goods, what does DHL have to offer in this regards?

One of the challenges that logistics companies are facing is transparency and cross border processes which are quite challenging in some countries than infrastructure and education. Some countries don’t have enough talent to support the potential growth they have, that is common in most African countries I believe. The border processes are very complex. You need a lot of paper work and official approval for many things which are very different for many developed countries where the processes are automated and very simple, and that cost money. These are the three things we always say needs to be improved – border processes, infrastructure and education.

E-commerce actually is very interesting because Nigeria definitely will jump from small shops into the e-commerce world because you have probably not the space, nor the time or money to build retail malls. So, the whole market will move from where you are now to the e-commerce world straightaway and that will create significant opportunity for companies like us because we know how to operate in the delivery area. That creates a significant opportunity, and we try to expand our activities in many African countries. But we need customers too, we are not a manufacturing company who builds big plant somewhere and then produces there. Our companies are investing and then they create revenue streams for us as well and then we expand our operations.


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