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An Exclusive interview with the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Geoffrey Onyeama

The global health crisis of Covid-19 has greatly weakened the global economy and exposed the economic vulnerability of the African countries.

The Assembly of Heads of State and the Government of the African Union has accordingly adopted a theme for 2022 as the Year of Nutrition for Africa – Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent: Strengthening Agro-Food Systems, Health and Social Protection Systems for the Acceleration of Human, Social and Economic Capital Development.

Africa or as I always like to call it ”The Green Continent” has so much potential, its most important resource being the vast fertile land. I was very impressed and touched by the extensive lecture delivered on the Food Security, Agriculture, and Nutrition theme topic by the Foreign Minister of Nigeria H.E. Geoffrey Onyeama during his recent visit to Bulgaria during Africa month, setting the tone for the Africa Day commemoration. Here is what he shared with me: 

A-CHOICES: What are your first impressions of Bulgaria?

Hon.G.O: My first impressions are very positive. First of all from the plane before landing, I was very impressed with the landscape and the agricultural land layout. It was also beautiful seeing the mountains and a lot of greenery. Then driving through the city I was also very impressed because knowing it was a former Eastern European country, one had a certain image of the difficulties over those years that a lot of these countries had faced economically. But actually coming here, I see a very open and modern European country.

A-CHOICES: What bilateral relations are to be achieved between Nigeria and Bulgaria during this visit?

Hon. G.O: We’ve already been engaging with the educational sector, which is a very important sector for Nigeria because we have a lot of students who come to study in Bulgaria. Also, Bulgaria is helping a lot of Nigerian students who fled from Ukraine, to be able to continue their studies here. So we are able to engage with a lot of the directors of various universities here, looking into the possibility of increasing the taking of more students from Nigeria to come and school here, and in fact, they are very willing. 

We have established contact with a mining company and we look to take that forward because mining and geology in this case is an area that we also want to prioritise in Nigeria. This is one of the leading mining groups in Europe, so that’s a deliverable and very positive. Then tomorrow we start to meet with the legislation, the executives, and the President, which is going to be good for the political relations between the two counties.

A-CHOICES: During your lecture at Sofia University you spoke a lot about the 2022 theme for the month of May – which is Africa’s month, how do you feel about the food security and the agricultural systems in Africa,  can you share with us a bit more for the purpose of the interview?

Hon. G.O: It’s a real challenge for Africa, of course you know some of the global crisis impacts directly on food security, COVID, the Ukraine – Russia conflict is going to have an impact and what we are seeing is the costs of food going up in the African countries, so even if it’s available, it’s also not available because, there’s a lot of people that cannot afford it, resulting in food crisis. So it is a huge, huge challenge, the present priority as said earlier on is agriculture and diversifying our economy. We have done a lot towards achieving self-sufficiency, hopefully, that’s going to help us.

A-CHOICES: Bulgarians are very interested in Africa. Being the organiser of Africa Day here in Bulgaria for many years with the African ambassadors we see a huge interest in African culture and a demand to do business with Africa, but the tendency is that most are worried about going into unfamiliar territory. Is there a possibility to organise a Bulgarian delegation, like a business familiarisation trip to Nigeria, is that something that we could possibly organise and venture into such a collaboration?

Hon. G.O:  Absolutely, this is one of the things we want to pursue, to have a business round table with the Bulgarian business communities, so the Bulgarian chamber of Commerce and the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce would organise joint business forums both here and in Nigeria. 

We’re also looking into establishing a media binational commission here. Countries establish binational commissions – where they meet every 2 years, either on a ministerial level or in the various sectors, especially the economic sectors meeting jointly to agree on a roadmap for business and cooperation. 

A-CHOICES: And finally what is your personal message to all the readers? 

Hon. G.O:  We are all Ambassadors for Africa, which means we all have to work together in our own little space, because we want to change the African brand, every single individual has to be part of the effort in our recovery of Africa. We have to just keep absolute faith in ourselves. And then just to thank you guys in the media, because you have a very important job to do. Because the media is not democratic, there are certain powers that control the narratives, when you control the media you control the narratives. So it’s important to support our media platforms and corporations, so we can control the narrative about ourselves. That’s a long message right!

A-CHOICES: That’s a great message. Thank you very much Honourable Minister Geoffrey Onyeama! 

Photography credits:
Yordan Patchev

Author: Albena Jones

Sofia-Bulgaria

albenajones@yahoo.co.uk

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