Jens-Petter Kjemprud, (JK) the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria speaks with Petrolgas Report (PGR) on the bilateral trade between both countries, the power sector among other issues.
Ayobami Adedinni brings the excerpt
You may read our previous chat here
PGR : What can you say about the bilateral trade between Norway and Nigeria?
JK: It’s substantial but very difficult to give exact numbers because so many companies working here are part of multinationals.
It’s very difficult to trace what the actual trade is between the two countries. But we’ve tried to calculate from the number of Norwegian companies engaged which is about 70 in Nigeria.
Officially, we know the Norwegian oil company, Equinor makes between $4 -$5 billion annually.
Not all the companies are doing the same value but we believe that there might be an annual turnaround of about $20+ billion which is substantial.
We have for instance TechnipFMG that had a contract of $7 billion over few years for Egina.
The main thing is that Nigeria acquires a lot of high technology for the offshore subsea sector in Norway.
These are investments made for improving the quality and efficiency of the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
The most important thing is that we have common interest and benefit in improving the oil sector.
As I said during the Oil conference (NOG 2019), it’s not only the size of the Nigerian oil sector but also about utilizing and making it more efficient.
For instance, from certain oil fields you can only extract 20 per cent but with the use of new technology, you can increase that to 50 per cent, although you need to make investments in this new kind of technology and that’s where we are more advanced.
PGR: You noted at the conference that the Oil in Norway is used for the people i.e. the people benefit directly. Is that the idea behind the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund? And is there any plan of increasing the fund from $1 trillion?
The wealth fund keeps increasing. The main thing about the Fund is that it is an investment for the future.
And because we had a strong economy before we found oil, we could put so much money in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
We don’t need to use it to strengthen our budget and that is the difference between Nigeria and Norway because Nigeria is so dependent on oil for its economy. We are not dependent on it.
It comes on top of manufacturing and solid economy.
Nigeria also has a Sovereign Wealth Fund but ours grow because we annually put the government revenue from the sector into the Fund and as it makes profits from what they have invested in different companies.
So far, we are trying to encourage more of the Wealth Fund to be invested in Nigeria but so far, there has been an investment of about $100 million on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
PGR: Norway is a world power in the Maritime industry. For every 5 ships on the sea, one belongs to a Norwegian. What’s the secret?
JK: If you look at the map, our coast is extremely long. We have one of the longest coastlines in the world.
We have been dependent on seafaring throughout our history. That meant we had to build a strong shipping industry.
We have been among the top 5 shipping nations in the world throughout history.
Shipping is changing continuously. I attended the NorShipping Conference in June in Oslo, Norway. We had 80 participants from Nigeria including Dakuku Peterside and the President of the Nigerian Shipping Association.
Even shipping is now being seen to be a major contributor to pollution and destruction of the environment.
Therefore, it’s about developing the shipping industry to be more environmentally friendly.
We already have the first electric ferries in Norway.
So, it’s about innovation and making new technology to be environmentally friendly and more profitable.
Every sector is developing continuously and if you are not ahead, you will lag behind.
PGR: Since your assumption, what have you brought as trade benefits to both countries?
JK: As it stands, Norway and Nigeria produce many of same products- oil and gas. So, one of the weaknesses of the Nigerian sector is the lack of refinery and manufacturing capacity.
We buy crude oil from Nigeria and sell refined products to Nigeria which does not make sense.
For Nigeria to compete in the trade which is much tilted in Norway’s favor, it has to develop the manufacturing and agricultural processing sector.
Also, you can buy lobster from Nigeria in Norway for $100 a kilo. On the other hand, we export stockfish to Nigeria.
The market is there but the fishing industry has to be developed. Now Nigeria imports 2/3 of its consumption.
PGR: There was a Stockfish festival recently. What has been the gain so far?
JK: We started exporting stockfish to Nigeria in the 1890. So, it’s nearly 130 years of export.
One important thing I have been focusing on since my assumption in Nigeria is Nigeria to develop its electricity sector because any Nigerian manufacturer cannot run in a competitive way on generators.
You have huge potential in renewable energy such as hydro, solar and to some extent wind power. What we did was to develop our power sector.
We produce 36,500 MW for 5 million people. Nigeria produces 3,650 MW which is one tenth, for 200 million people. For me, the most important thing to change in Nigeria is therefore the power sector.
PGR: What is Norway’s energy mix?
JK: We produce 99 per cent from hydropower. It was built in the 1920s all through the 1970s but now, we are moving also into wind power and solar as well.
We export a lot of power to neighboring countries at certain times of the year and then we import. So, we have a power pool in the Nordic countries expanding to the rest of Europe.
PGR: How do you think Nigeria can learn from that?
JK: If you look around the world, the key is to have stable and cheap power delivered to the industries and to the people.
It will expand productivity and profits of company and satisfy people’s demands.
Now, with the AFCTA, if the Nigerian manufacturing industries should expand, it would need to have that efficient power sector. A lot of African countries have cheap power. If Nigeria does not have it, it won’t be competitive.
It will take a few years for the agreement to come into effect but before that, Nigeria needs to get the power sector in order.
You have the hydropower plant in Mambilla which could supply what you currently produce. It’s a big investment but very necessary.
PGR: More European countries are moving from fossil to renewables, what is the Norwegian Government’s plan as regards this?
JK: We are part of the Paris Agreement. As an oil producing nation, we also pollute. At the oil conference, I said oil is a “proud history” that has contributed to the economic development of this world but “it is not the future”.
We have to start moving towards renewable energy, and fast.
For Nigeria, gas could be used but you have to make the investment for using it.
I think there will soon be international restrictions which every country has to abide by.
Also, if the industry does not move towards more environmentally friendly production, the people will protest. So, I think any responsible government will move in that direction.
We first move from oil to gas and then to renewables.
PGR: Can you give us a brief history of your life as a diplomat? Have you always wanted to be a diplomat?
JK: No, I did not always want to be a diplomat. I have been more driven by activism and solidarity thinking.
I started my international career working for the UN High Commission for Refugees in Somalia. Wherever I have been going, I don’t believe that diplomacy is only about improving relations between countries and defending and promoting your country’s interest.
I always take into account that Norwegian interests will not be improved and protected if we don’t think also about how to encourage economic and social development where I serve.
I am used to saying I am a diplomat for my country and also the country that I represent. That is why I try to link up with people who are working for change and improvements.
I believe in people’s ability to change the country themselves.
I have been an ambassador to Iran, Sudan and Ethiopia. I served for the UN in Somalia and I have been Special Envoy in Sudan and South Sudan after the war broke out in South Sudan.
I have been Director for African Affairs at HQs and involved in a few peace processes as with the Lord Resistance Army in Uganda, Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process as well as the Sudan and South Sudan peace processes.
PGR: Most of the countries you’ve served have been war-torn. Why Nigeria since there is no war here?
JK: There is a lot of conflict in Nigeria which undermines development. But that was not the reason I was posted here. I was working on Nigerian issues at HQs during the Abacha Regime.
I worked with the Nigerian opposition at the time, the democracy movements like NALICON and NADECO.
Norway at that time assisted the opposition in funding of Radio Kudirat. From the beginning, it broadcasted from Norway.
Nigeria is however also our biggest trading partner on the continent and we try to support further trade and investment.
We are also working closely with Nigeria at the UN on different issues such as Africa’s quest for a permanent seat the UN Security Council, return of looted assets and other issues of common benefit.
PGR: What are the current trends in Norway’s energy space?
JK: In Norway, the current debate now is whether to move heavily into wind power. But, you know wind power has certain disadvantages. It demands a lot of space in nature.
We believe we could gain more in further developing our hydropower industry and make it more efficient through upgrades.
Solar power is not that dependent on sun anymore but on light. It can be nearly as useful in Norway where there is not much sun as it is in northern Nigeria where there is sun most of the time.
There is a tough political fight in Norway and worldwide because some political parties believe we earn so much money from the oil production, that we should continue, despite the environmentally negative effects.
PGR: What can you describe as the most challenging since your arrival in Nigeria?
JK: The security situation. If you are going to attract people to come and invest in your country, you need to have a security situation which allows you to travel around and feel safe.
Much has been done to improve the situation in Lagos. With Boko Haram/ISWAP and kidnapping in the Northern states and Niger Delta, which means about 20 out of the 36 states are no go area, business people cannot travel without heavy security which is hampering investment in the country.
Secondly, the perception on corruption and the Ease of Doing Business has to be changed.
I think the Vice President and his Economic Team have done a lot.
This needs to be continued.
I was at the African Development Bank recently where the Minister for Finance, Zainab Hamed said the highest profits can be made in investing in Nigeria. But you could make even more profit if you were not so dependent on security.
PGR: What’s your perception about Nigerians?
JK: Most people who have opinions about Nigerians are those who have never been here. People fall in love with this country and the people when they come, but the perception out there is negative.
I am talking to so many business people who want to invest here but the perceptions stop them from doing that.
Therefore, in every interview I do in Norway, I try to tear down those perceptions and rather focus on the friendly business climate in Nigeria and the many professional business people.
PGR: What do you think about Lagos?
JK: It is the heartbeat of Africa!! Lagos, if it was a country in itself, would be the fifth or sixth biggest economy on the African continent. Most Norwegian businesses are based here which is good for Lagos but not the rest of the country.
PGR: How so?
JK: It is because most of the investment comes here. So, there is an imbalance in the country. There is a lot of trade in Kano but not like Lagos. Kaduna and Port Harcourt and others have a challenge now because of the kidnappings.
PGR: We know youths are the future of any nation. Does the Norwegian government have any programme for the youth in Nigeria?
JK: We have quite big programs on education through UNICEF mainly because we believe education is the key to economic and democratic development.
PGR: Nordic countries are not easily accessible to Nigerians. How do you hope to improve on this?
JK: We are part of the Schengen countries. There are some limitations to what we could do because before we issue a Visa, we have to consult the other Schengen countries.
The visa processes are rule-bound in the sense that you have to apply online and do finger prints and satisfy certain economic requirements, and then it is processed in consultation with other countries.
There are strong policies in Europe now because there are so many asylum seekers. But it prevents many other people from travelling as well.
There were number of Nigerians who did not get the visa to attend the last Norway Shipping conference. What we are trying to do is to make the processes as efficient as possible.
PGR: Is that the idea behind a Nigerian as Norway’s Consul general in Nigeria?
JK: He is an honorary consul. Usually, we have had Norwegian or European Consul Generals. But when I came, we decided to change it. Nigerians know their country more than any foreigner and they can interact much easier than foreign diplomat.
Taofik Adegbite of Marine Platforms has been doing business in Norway for more than 10 years. He is very good and we have a lot of trust and expectation for him as our representative.
Based on the fact that we have managed oil sector very well,we have developed a program called Oil for development which is meant to establish cooperation with oil nations around the world. We have the legislation practices, and the right institutional framework to ensure transparency and openness about every transaction so all the people and parliament can control it.
We had many Nigerians on courses and trainings in Norway but the programme was discontinued.
We have strong Oil for Development cooperation in the new oil nations like Ghana, Angola, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and other Africa countries and an emerging one in Benin.
It is about transferring the success stories of Norway to other countries. We would be happy to reengage in Nigeria.