Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire should continue to build closer economic ties and integrate, especially within the ambit of regional integration agreements like ECOWAS and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
At 2nd edition of the Nigeria-Cote d’Ivoire Bi-National Commission meeting in Abidjan on Saturday, Osinbajo said the closer cooperation would create more jobs for its youths, while deepening bilateral ties between both countries.
Osinbajo also extended President Muhammadu Buhari’s greetings and appreciation to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, for his friendship and positive disposition towards strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries.
The VP noted that “we should put in place arrangements that enable value addition within and between our countries so that we can create the much needed jobs for our young people and stem the irregular migration to other parts of the world where they are often mistreated and used for menial tasks.”
Osinbajo who co-chaired the meeting with the Ivorian Prime Minister, Patrick Jerome Achi, also also met the Ivorian President for talks.
At the Bi-National Commission meeting, both countries signed a set of new Agreements which cover Agriculture; Digital Economy; Education; Consular and Immigration Matters; and prevention of Human Trafficking, amongst other very important areas of collaboration.
“They will certainly go a very long way to promoting the much desired and mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries in accordance with the guidance given to us by both President Buhari and President Ouattara,” he stated.
Noting that Nigeria values its close ties with Cote d’Ivoire, Prof. Osinbajo stated that “these integration agreements must be seen as an opportunity that goes beyond trade, but one that helps to deepen regional value chains, instead of exporting raw commodities.”
Highlighting the significance of the 2nd session of the Bi-National Commission, the Vice President noted that it was an opportunity to also further strengthen and diversify both countries’ bilateral ties.
He said, “Our shared values of democracy, protection of human rights and our aspirations for peace, progress and prosperity must continue to be the guiding principles for our cooperation for mutual benefit and for the well-being of West Africa.
“In agriculture, for instance, Cote d’Ivoire is a leading producer of key commodities like cocoa and coffee, which are crops that Nigeria also produces, and there is certainly great scope for learning and collaborating in the international trade of these commodities.
“In the same vein, given the large number of Nigerians who have made their home here, it is important that both countries cooperate closely on consular matters. We must also work closely together to tackle the evil practice of human trafficking which seems to be on the rise in this sub-region.”
He added that as two of the largest economies in ECOWAS, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire are duty bound to cooperate in the interests of its citizens and the rest of the sub-region.
“Furthermore, we look forward to closer military cooperation between our two countries so that working together we can help to maintain the peace and security of our countries and neighbourhood. With peace, businesses will thrive; so we are very much looking forward to the convening of the Business Forum leg of this Bi-National Commission,” Prof. Osinbajo said.
The VP added, “In this regard, it is my sincere wish that the holding of the Business Forum will lead to the establishment of a Nigeria-Cote d’Ivoire Business Council.”
According to him “such close ties between the business sectors of both countries also mean that we should move speedily to finalize negotiations on an avoidance of double taxation agreement and to review our Bilateral Air Services Agreement so as to facilitate movement of people and cargo between both countries.”
The Vice President then stated that the areas of focus for the Bi-National Commission are of great importance to both Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.
On behalf of the Nigerian government, Prof. Osinbajo, in his address, at the meeting also thanked the Ivorian government for its support for the candidacy of two Nigerians: Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina for a second term in office as President of the African Development Bank (with head office in Abidjan); and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
In his own address earlier, the Ivorian Prime Minister said he was excited that both countries had agreed to reactivate the Bi-National Commission.
He said that the meeting was an ideal platform to improve the quality of trade cooperation between both countries and the ECOWAS region, as this would also address common interests and challenges in areas of security, oil and energy, terrorism, among others.
The Nigeria-Cote d’Ivoire Bi-National Commission, which was established in 2013, is a reflection of the fraternal and cordial relations that exist between both countries regarded as the biggest economies in West Africa.
The maiden edition of the Commission, which took place in Abuja in August 2013, led to the signing of six sectoral Agreements, as well as the establishment of Special Implementation Committees in both countries to monitor progress.
At the bilateral meeting with the Ivorian President, Prof. Osinbajo expressed appreciation for the warm hospitality accorded him and the Nigerian government delegation to the Bi-National Commission meeting which had started on Thursday.
While being optimistic about the results expected from the work of the Bi-National Commission, the VP also expressed the hope that Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire’s security forces will continue to work together to improve security in the Sahel region and the sub-region. He expressed similar expectations for all other areas of mutual cooperation between both countries.