KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) aims to use Nigeria and Ghana as a platform to promote Malaysian products in the West African region. MATRADE Trade Commissioner to West Africa Saifuddin Khalid said the West African region had started opening up their economies, resulting in increasing demand for foreign products.
“We will mount several programmes in Nigeria and Ghana and use these two countries to explore the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region,” he added. ECOWAS is a 15-member regional group with a mandate to promote economic integration in all fields of activity of the constituting countries. Member countries making up ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo. “ECOWAS has a unique agreement where products move freely between the 15 countries.
This is an opportunity for Malaysian companies to expand there, also due to language advantage. “Ghana and Nigeria use English as their intermediate language. With the right strategy and partner, Malaysian companies can succeed in this market,” said Saifuddin. He added that Ghana would be an appropriate route to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger due to its proximity to the countries. “Ghana is the passage to the three countries because they are landlocked with no ports. So the products would need to enter through Ghana, Congo or Benin to reach there. Saifuddin noted that Malaysia enjoyed good relationship with West Africa before the region was hit by political uncertainties in the 1990s, which led to Malaysian companies divesting their investments there. “We have seen the recovery in the political environment from early 2000 when they started conducting elections. They have free political will. Foreign investments have started flowing into the region again. “We believe it is going to be better now and it is high time Malaysian companies re-explore the region,” he pointed out.
However, Saifuddin noted distance as among the challenges to trade in the West African region. “The cost will be high due to the long distance between countries. So we have to restrategise in terms of pricing,” he added. Currently, Saifuddin said Malaysian oil and gas companies have been scouting the region for oil and gas exploration. Besides, Saifuddin said MATRADE would continue to organise specialised trade missions and business matching programmes in West Africa to boost trade between Malaysia and the region. “This is an incentive that we provide for free. We will also do the due diligence with our partners and process the follow-ups as the distance with West Africa was our main challenges“, he said. As Africa diversified its economy and increased its source of supply, Malaysia’s exports to Africa rose 5.9 per cent in 2015 to RM20.61 billion, accounting for 2.6 per cent share of Malaysia’s total exports. Major exports to the region comprised both industrial and consumer products, namely palm oil and palm-based products, petroleum products, chemical and chemical products, processed food as well as machinery, appliances and parts.