Oramah’s Low Hanging Fruits for Nigeria’s Development

By Kehinde Olaosebikan

Today, Friday, 4th of August, 2023, the Nigeria-born President and Chairman of Board of Directors, African Export-Import Bank Afreximbank, Professor Benedict Okey Oramah, will be leading his management team to open the regional headquarters of the bank in Barbados, the Caribbean, North America.

The regional headquarters, described by the Prime Minister of Barbados , Mia Amor Motley, as “one of the most outstanding Pan-African achievements of our era,“ is an outcome  of the first  African- Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum ( ACTIF) initiated by Afreximbank in Bridgestone last September, after 500 years of deleterious relations between Africa and the Caribbean.

Excited with the huge potentials of the continental bank on their continent, Prime Minister Motley said “the Caribbean Community eagerly anticipates the effective linking of a fully constructed CARICOM Single Market and Economy to a fully integrated and operational African Continental Free Trade Area undergirded by air, maritime and telecommunications connectivity between the Caribbean and Africa.

“It is therefore this outstanding African success story that we will be formally and substantively welcoming to our Caribbean Community … when the President of Afreximbank, Professor Benedict Oramah; and his Executive Management team arrive in my own country of Barbados to officially open Afreximbank’s spanking new Caribbean headquarters.”

She stated that all the governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that had already signed on to the Partnership Agreement with Afreximbank were looking forward to the opening of the bank’s regional headquarters in Barbados. Already Afreximbank has made available over $1.5 million to the CARICOM member states for trading purposes.

Referencing the harmful relationship that existed between Africa and the Caribbean before the intervention of Okey Oramah and Afreximbank, the Barbados Prime Minister promised that: “We are determined to reverse the negative and evil historical Middle Passage and re-imagine and reconstruct it in a positive way to serve our own interests and purposes.

“We, in the Caribbean Community, are determined to reclaim our Atlantic destiny, to reconnect with our African “heartland” and to realize the dreams and aspirations of the Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey and so many others of our outstanding Pan-Africanists, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and Afreximbank are simply playing a role in helping us to accomplish this.”  

This is not the first historical intercontinental reconnection and revitalization of human and trade relations successfully effectuated by African Export-Import Bank under the leadership of Okey Oramah.  

Four years ago, precisely between 24th and 26th of October 2019, Okey Oramah led the Afreximbank to the first Russian-African Summit and Economic Forum held in Sochi, Russia Federation.

After the epochal summit, President of Russia Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin, disclosed that the summit led to a massive revitalization of trade and economic relations between Africa and Russia. Putin attributed the “rapid rise” of prosperity in Russia and Africa to the enhanced trade and business relationship between the two continents resulting from the unprecedented summit.

In appreciation, President Putin honoured Professor Benedict Okey Oramah with the prestigious Russian National honour of ‘The Order of Friendship’ in the Kremlin, Moscow, on November 4, 2019.

Specifically, President Putin said the award was “in recognition of the role played by Afreximbank (under Oramah) in revitalizing trade and economic relations between Africa and Russia as evident in the success of the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum held in Sochi, Russia Federation between 23 and 24 October and the rapidly rising trade and investment relations between Russia and Africa.”

Four year after, on the 2nd edition of the summit held last week, the Russian Federation President, in his article; “Russia and Africa: Joining Efforts For Peace, Progress and Successful Future,” said with pride that Russian trade turnover with the African countries increased in 2022 to an unprecedented value of $18 billion from about $10 billion in less than four years.

At the summit effectively attended by Nigeria’s Vice President, Kashim Shettima, the Russian President reiterated the age-long cordial relations between Russia and Africa and offered to further support African countries in the spheres of high technologies, geological exploration, nuclear power, mining and transport engineering, agriculture and fishery.

In the African Message to the summit delivered by the President of Afreximbank, Professor Benedict Okey Oramah, specific requests were made from Russia to increase its trade and support for Africa in the areas of grains and fertilizer for Africa to achieve the much desired food security.

Professor Oramah told the forum that the African Export-Import Bank, along with its African member states, were committed to ensuring that critical trade continues to flow uninhibited towards guaranteeing African food security.

According to him: “Afreximbank is working with the African Union Commission, the United Nations System and Russian partners to use the Africa Trade Exchange (ATEX) e-commerce platform to facilitate seamless flow of goods and payments in any currencies chosen by sellers and buyers in a transparent manner.

“The platform pools Africa’s demand for grains and fertilizers; and the Bank has placed an aggregate credit limit of $3 billion to support these transactions.

“Beyond the food security priorities and in line with the Bank’s mandate, Afreximbank and the Russian Export Centre are collaborating to promote trade and investments in other critical sectors.”

Professor Oramah charged African countries and businessmen to adequately utilize all the windows in the arrays of business supporting frameworks of Afreximbank and play a more active role in the Russian economy, saying that a two-way trade flow was the sine-qua-non for accelerated trade and economic growth in Africa.

The Afreximbank boss, who thanked the Russian President and the people of Russia for consistently demonstrating a strong bond of friendship and partnership between Russian people and Africa, even in the midst of unprecedented global challenges, tasked African countries to emulate Russia, a country that he said was a net importer of food 20 years but now exporting 20 percent of the total grains being consumed across the globe.

In the spirit of Renewed Hope for Nigeria, the President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was ably represented by the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, held a series of bilateral meetings on the sideline of the summit.

The Vice President disclosed to the applause of Nigerians in Russia that the team in Russia was on a mission to “pursue the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex and the revival of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria” being handled by Russians, adding that discussions had been successful.

With emphasis, the Vice President said, “it is going to be a game changer. Having a vibrant steel industry is a sine qua non for the industrial take off of any nation. I can bet you, I can promise you that the President will bring Ajaokuta to reality.

“Rest assured that if there is one legacy that President Tinubu would bequeath to fellow Nigerians, Ajaokuta is one. I’ll come back to Russia; we are going to drive this process; and my leader, my boss and principal, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is irrevocably committed to Ajaokuta and to ALSCON.” 

Heartening as the promises were, it is equally important that the country harkens to the advice of our own Oramah in using the Russian model to develop our agriculture and as well utilize his special status in Russia and recognitions across the world towards attaining our imminent factual greatness. .

If Russia could attain food security in 20 years, we should be able to tremendously improve on the current poor food security in the country, within the eight years of Tinubu/Shettima’s administration.

A direct Russian-Nigerian economic cooperation may suffice, as recommended by Professor Maurice Okoli, President, Nigerian Community in Russia. It is a road already cleared and tarred for us by a great patriot, Professor Benedict Okey Oramah, successfully using Afreximbank to accelerate the transformation of trade and industry in Africa and across the globe.

Olaosebikan, is the CEO of Midas Communications Ltd, a global PR firm.

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