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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Singapore and Nigeria sign Agreements on Aviation and Medical Tourism

Trade and investment relationship - Nigeria and Singapore have sealed a fresh deal to open up direct air links between both countries and to leverage each other's competitive and comparative advantage for an enhanced, mutually beneficial trade and investment relationship.

The two nations agreed to collaborate in the areas of medical tourism, capacity development, skills acquisition and enterprise development, among others, while taking steps towards investment guarantee and a fair taxation regime. The agreements were reached at a meeting between the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, and the Singaporean Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. S. Iswaran, on the sidelines of the Nigeria-Singapore Business and Investment Forum in Singapore.
Aganga noted that direct air services between Nigeria and Singapore would provide a good foundation for unrestricted business movement and growth, in addition to a mutually favourable trade and investment relationship between both countries. Iswaran said: "Once we open up the links, the people will follow and businesses too. Nigeria is a large country in its region and there are a lot of opportunities. Singapore is also an important gateway in this region. If we explore these advantages, the two countries will be better for it."

The Singaporean government, however assured that arrangements had been concluded to have direct flights to Singapore from Nigeria, noting that the Ethiopian Airlines would commence direct flights from Nigeria to Singapore in December 2013. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the Enterprise International Singapore Board in five key areas - collaboration in the growth sectors of the economy, sharing information and best practice, mutual support in business missions and capacity development facilitation.

The Singaporean trade minister, however, noted that the double taxation agreement talks between both countries had reached an advanced stage, adding that further improving the business climate and providing investment guarantee would create a good level of comfort for businesses on both sides.

Aganga, who stated that an agreement had been reached to develop a smart city in Abuja also urged Singapore to take advantage of opportunities in Nigeria's Free Trade Zones, to create good avenues for investment while also creating jobs and generating wealth for Nigerians.

In his presentation, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, Mr. Gbenga Kuye, pointed out that the Free Zone Scheme was presently undergoing strategic reforms to adequately reposition it to meet the nation's quest for industrialisation.

Nigeria and Singapore have, however, agreed to start off the process of establishing the Nigeria-Singapore Trade and Investment Council, starting first with the setting up of the chamber of commerce (private sector-to-private sector) in both countries this year. According to Iswaran, the Singapore Business Federation, which works with all the businesses in Singapore, will facilitate the Council on the side of Singapore. The council is an institutional framework for working on increasing the level of trade and investment between both countries under a win-win situation.

"The business environment in Nigeria is getting better and better, in line with the Transformation Agenda of Mr. President. And the story of Nigeria is being told the right way in major countries of the world. The result is that Nigeria is better viewed and investments are coming. This is the reason, for the second year running, Nigeria is the preferred destination for investment in Africa, according to UNCTAD's figures," Aganga noted.

By Crusoe Osagie

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