Exploring growth opportunities in bilateral relations, by Koozechi
Mr. Saheed Koozechi, the Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran, is working hard to raise the profile of his country’s economic relations with Nigeria. In an interview with the envoy, he said the planned solo Iran Exhibition in Nigeria, would assemble 40 Iranian companies, in an attempt to boost trade and diplomatic relations with Nigeria. CHIJIOKE NELSON was there.
Besides oil gas, what are the other economic and trade opportunities in Iran?
As you may know, Iran is one of the biggest countries with the highest crude oil and reserves in the world. But despite that, the Iranian government is gradually reducing its dependence on oil revenue. In the next couple of years, Iran shall be relying more on other sources of revenue. In this current year, our budget is just 30 per cent dependent on oil and gas revenue. As a matter of fact, we are actually concentrating on industry and other industry-related sectors of oil and gas. For example, the petrochemical industry is a very huge and valuable sector for the Iranian economy. Iran produces 60 million tonnes of petrochemicals yearly and we deploy them for the local market and the idea is to support many of the SMEs in the country, which use them as raw materials. Of all the petrochemicals produced in Iran, only 25 per cent are exported to the international market. Last year, Iranian export of petrochemicals stood at about $15 billion.
In the power sector which is one of the most important infrastructures in Iran, we have made good progress and have achieved about 95 per cent self sufficiency in this sector, including design and manufacture of equipment like turbines, transmission equipment and many others. Last year, Iran exported $1 billion worth of electricity to neighbouring countries.
In the steel industry, there is about 17 million tonnes production yearly, providing the needed support for the Iranian industry. Many of our cities rely on Iranian-made machines. As for building materials, there are thousands of Iranian companies that specialise in building materials and we are ranked fourth in the world below China, Italy and Spain in the manufacture of tiles.
In this exhibition, there will be 15 companies showcasing Iranian made machines and products. I think that since Nigeria is going to establish plants for assemblage of cars, it is possible that Iranian companies in the automotive sector will also be thinking about coming over to Nigeria to establish plants as well.
In agriculture, we produce about 120 to 130 million tonnes of produce yearly. Iran ranks fourth in the world in fruits production. We rank very high in the production of various kinds of fruits. For example, Iran’s export of the Pistachio fruits is valued at $1 billion yearly.
Health is also a very important sector in my country. Many high tech drugs and pharmaceutical products can be produced in Iran. With regards to nuclear treatment, we can produce radiographic drugs for the treatment of health cases like cancer.
What is the purpose of this exhibition?
This exhibition is expected to open doors of opportunities for both Iranian and Nigerian companies and businesses. It will help to identify each other’s capacity in order to deepen trade relations between the two countries. Right now, Iranian companies do not know the opportunities available in Nigeria. And Nigeria is a very big market, especially with its big population and resources. This situation also applies to Nigerian businesses, as they also know little about Iranian companies and the huge potential that the market offers. I believe that through this exhibition, a stronger connection will be fostered among both countries’ businesses. The exhibition will play a very key role in identifying the opportunities on both sides. I hope that as soon as possible, we can have another exhibition in northern Nigeria.
Why should businesses come to the exhibition?
They should come to find business opportunities. I think that many Iranian products can compete favorably in terms of price and quality with other products in the Nigerian market. For instance, there are some products that when I compare them with the prices in Iran, it will be three times higher. And then I wonder why the Iranian product is absent in the Nigerian market. For example, in the food industry, the quality of Iranian food is far above international standards. Take dairy products for instance, it is a good area of investment for Iranian companies in Nigeria. The main reason why Nigerian businessmen should come for the exhibition is to find a part of the Iranian capacity for products and other business opportunities.
What is your advice for Nigerian companies that want to do business with Iranian companies?
This exhibition provides a window of opportunity for realistic assessment of the capacity of each country. There are many international exhibitions that take place in Iran. Sometimes in one exhibition, there are more than 1,000 companies participating and most of these exhibitions are specialised. If Nigerian businessmen visit my country during or after these exhibitions, within three to five days, they will get Iranian companies that are willing to partner with them. And the beginning of this serious relationship will even help to create a cultural balance between the two countries as their products cross to the other side of the market.
You know that many tourists, about four to five million, also visit Iran yearly and most of them visit as medical tourists. Many of Iran’s neighbours like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Iraq visit my country for medical reasons. This is because Iran can boast of high quality and affordable healthcare. Unfortunately, many Nigerians do not know this. They believe that Europe offers better healthcare. This is also a good area that the two countries can also explore to build their economic ties.
Do you have any incentive for Nigerian businesses willing to key into these business relations?
Getting a visa to Iran as a businessperson is not difficult and to travel to Iran for business purpose is easy too. Iran is a big country and one can travel there either for business or for holiday. I hope that this connection we are trying to establish between Iran and Nigeria using this exhibition, more about the mutual benefits of trade relations can be created. Iran is a very important country in the Middle East just as Nigeria is in Africa, so I think we can have a good partnership.
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