In a captivating and insightful interview conducted by the African Leadership Magazine, His Excellency, Ambassador Alejandro Herrero of Argentina to Nigeria, took us through an enthralling journey of Argentina and Nigeria’s historical partnership, where the ideals of equality, trade, and culture intertwine harmoniously. This interview focuses on a mesmerising odyssey through the strides Argentina has made in gender equality, flourishing trade partnerships, and the rich fabric of cultural exchange between these two nations.
The Argentine Embassy plays a pivotal role in strengthening trade ties and cooperation between the two countries. Recent instances, such as receiving radar technology from the Federal Ministry of Aviation and exploring agricultural partnerships, highlight the depth of their economic collaboration.
Interview with The Ambassador of the Republic of Argentina to Nigeria
ALM: Argentina has made progress in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Are there any gender-related initiatives or partnerships between Argentina and Nigeria?
Ambassador Herrero: Yes, as you said in Argentina, we have been working very hard to promote gender equality. We pass a lot of laws regarding that. Believe me, the situation of women has improved a lot in the last 20–30 years. There has been a lot of quality representation.
We are working very hard on that. But It is not enough to pass laws; you have to be able to fulfil what has begun. It’s not a method of saying or complaining; it’s a method of doing things. Of course, we are open to sharing this experience with Nigeria.
We have a special programme on how to share our knowledge and prioritise it, and we are open to sharing that with Nigeria. We know that we have some cultural limitations, and it’s not something that can be used directly or prevented directly in Argentina.
But we are ready to share progress with Nigeria, we are ready to invest. And we can share our knowledge in order to do the right thing to improve not only in the parliament but in the whole of Nigerian society. Women have a role and everyone recognises the importance of a woman in society. But everyone recognises bad politics because some countries don’t recognise the place of women in the political leadership. So, we have to work hard to make people understand that women are important and have the key to a peaceful society.
Moving back to the Embassy, I know very well that one of the key mandates of the embassy will be to promote trade between both countries. We want to look at the cooperation between Argentina and Nigeria.
ALM: How have you been able to pursue the mandate of the embassy in working since you arrived and to date?
Ambassador Herrero: Yes, we are doing well. Talking about trade, talking about cooperation. Last week, we received a radar promising Argentina; it was covered by newspapers. We received a radar from the Federal Ministry of Aviation, the first radar produced in Argentina exported by Invert, a company ruled by a state government.
It arrived in Abuja in an Air Force Argentina plane and was received by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika. I would say that one of the most important events was the trade between Argentina and Nigeria.
So I hope it will be the beginning of this relationship because Nigeria needs more of that equipment, and let’s hope that we can reach an agreement in order to provide the rest of them to the government, as this first one is going to be a sample here in Nigeria, but with ten Argentina engineers coming maybe in a few weeks to assemble the pieces together.
And that’s with the radar as the major issue. At the moment, we have an Argentina businessman who is presently in Nigeria. He produces beans and other kinds of crops, and he is also working and having a series of meetings with importers while looking at possible ways of exporting them.
We are working with people here in Nigeria to work, and we have people working on agriculture, trying to introduce the techniques we use in Argentina in order to boost the improvement of agriculture in Nigeria, such as “no-tillplanting,” which is the process of planting without tilling the soil. It’s a technique that started in the 1990s.
It works perfectly well in Nigeria because of climate change, so we are working on that. We have agricultural technicians and a minister of agriculture coming from Argentina. I think that we have a lot to share, and we are open to many more.
Argentina and Nigeria’s Cultural Exchange
ALM: When it comes to education and cultural exchange, that’s besides sports. Can you talk about any such initiatives between Argentina and Nigeria?
Ambassador Herrero: There is a particular characteristic of Argentina’s universities: they are free and fair. Public universities are free of charge. Of course, we are open to receiving students from all over the world, and that includes Nigeria.
We try to promote that, and we have been promoting that, but of course, there is a limitation, which is the language. Classes are given in Spanish, and of course, that can be a barrier. We have people, local employees, who speak Spanish perfectly.
Here, the Nigerian people working with us speak Spanish, and if they can fulfil that requirement to understand and speak Spanish because of the way lessons are given, Argentina is a free country for international students.
Our universities are full of Latin students; we share languages, and it’s easy for them, but there are also other students from all over the world, and we have a very good university that talks about medicine and all those careers that can be applied here.
Talking about culture, we are very well known in Latin America for our intellectual culture, our paintings, and our sculptures, but it is not easy to bring them to Nigeria because it would be too expensive for us as an embassy.
We will love to have here the exhibition of Argentina’s art, but now in a month, we are celebrating our national day, and we are trying to find out a couple of tango dancers, and you know, it’s not easy to bring someone from Europe. It is very expensive for us as an embassy, and it is really complicated. We will love to share our culture with Nigeria, but it is not easy.
ALM: What prospects do you think Nigeria and Argentina could have when it comes to tourism?
Ambassador Herrero: I’m always talking about the environment. We have done some events in Nigerian villages showing our beauty and our landscapes. We have beautiful landscapes in Argentina, beautiful places; of course, it’s a beautiful city like Patagonia. Patagonia is an empty space where you can drive for thousands of miles without seeing anybody; it’s a very different landscape.
The point is that there’s no direct flight from Nigeria to South America. We are negotiating an agreement between Argentina and Nigeria to open the road or a future to create a business opportunity to fly between Argentina and Nigeria in a profitable way, and of course, profit is possible. No company wants to survive without profit, so it is normal.
I am totally convinced that the connection will be profitable. Maybe not every day, but twice or three times in a week could be enough. Because there’s no flight connection between Western Africa and South America, it could be Lagos or Abuja that concentrate on travelling from all over the whole of West Africa and connect Nigeria, and that could be even more profitable.
First of all, we need to open this route by signing an agreement and then promoting it in order to get the attention of a company that has decided to connect South America and West Africa.
ALM: Looking at the future, what are some of the areas in which Argentina and Nigeria can deepen their relationship and build a stronger tie?
Ambassador Herrero: We need continuity. It is something you have to think about in a long-term project and cooperation, especially in the office where we do our best work, such as agriculture. You need to think long-term in order to start doing that, and you will see the result maybe in five years or even more.
There are a lot of opportunities to do things or implement things here without doubt. Those things that Nigeria doesn’t have, like the development of new techniques of agriculture, new techniques of cattling, new techniques of protection, and bio-genetic use of implementation, will help to improve the agricultural production in some parts of Nigeria that have special climate conditions.
At least something has to be done to focus in the near future, not less than 5 years’ time. I’m very optimistic about it. Argentina’s state policy is focusing on Africa, particularly Nigeria, so we can develop a lot of business opportunities and have those things that Nigeria needs.
We are just less than fifty million people, we produce food for four hundred million people, and we export a lot of food, so that is something we have at hand to start doing the right thing, and as a matter of understanding, we are working very well among privates, with some consultants coming from Argentina working with Nigerians and sharing their knowledge.
I always say to my people in Argentina that if you want to do business in Nigeria, you have to come; it’s not something you can do on the phone; you have to come around, see the place, know the people, and meet each other, and that’s the way it works. And of course, here is a country full of opportunities; a lot of things must be done in Nigeria.
I will say that our major role is to connect people. People in Argentina should be able to say, “I’m coming to Nigeria to do business.”
ALM: Fantastic! It’s good you mentioned all the African countries because I was going to ask, Do you have correspondents in Africa or are you focused on Nigeria at the moment?
Ambassador Herrero: I have other concordants; actually, we have 19 concordants, but at the end of last year, my ministry was reorganised, and at the end, I will have six more concordants. You know it’s through connections from Abuja, and now I’m looking forward to the future, which will make it easy for me to equip them.
Looking at that number of concordant accreditations, it shows that your government is positioned to focus more on Africa because it is expanding the coverage of how many ambassadors per country, which speaks to how important Africa has become.
It is a concrete fact. Recently, we opened an embassy in Senegal, we opened our embassy in Mozambique, we have an embassy in Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, not only embassies but also staff. We have four diplomats and almost fifty people working in the embassy, and that is a huge number and one of the biggest in Africa. We are very proud of that, and that is an example of how Argentina will continue with Africa to develop a proper relationship.
ALM: Is there any form of trade or delegation from African countries?
Ambassador Herrero: I think at the end of this month, delegations from the national college of defence are going to host a dinner, they are going to visit the conduct policy of Argentina, and they are going to seek special advice in agriculture because the army here practises agriculture.
They also asked us to meet with experts in agriculture to share with them. But, let me tell you, before the arrival of the material, the minister of foreign aviation went to Argentina to see how the radar works. Last year, the minister of Agriculture went to Argentina and visited places like the city of Córdoba, which is one of the second-largest cities in Argentina, where agriculture production is settled.
Also, we have a Cameroonian generation who went to Argentina months ago to visit the radar plant, and we will continue to organise this kind of trip. I am convinced that we have to promote that in order to be able to facilitate and provide visas here and get many captains to sign a courtesy visa, and that is the way it works in order to facilitate the relationship between the two countries.
We have handled quite a number of trade delegations for officials to the UK, US, and also to Austria, Vienna, Jordan, and a couple of other African countries, including Indonesia. At some point, we actually helped the Indonesian embassy set up a trade association that is still very vibrant because, beyond the chambers of commerce, there are layers of trade associations that are more active and efficient because of the people involved.
So, at the time, we led a trade delegation to Jakarta and Bangul a couple of times, so we discussed the possibility of setting up a geo-commercial association of Indonesia and Nigeria that is very active to help local events here. We also held events in Indonesia, and we will be more than happy to work with you because, talking about agriculture, Africa is the bread basket of the world and their ability to harness and all that.
So, we are looking forward to interestingly working with a lot of presidents across the continent whose major role has been “how do we unlock this agro opportunity” Some are at a loss as to how we can do this, and some, because of other competitive priorities, are not able to delegate enough time to develop this. Working with the embassy, we will be more than happy to see how we can explore those opportunities and also plan some of these kinds of visits in the near future.
I will tell you that we already signed a memorandum of agreement first with the embassy and the chamber of commerce in Lagos State, and we also encouraged and signed an agreement with the chamber of commerce and the Argentina government. The role of the state in diplomacy is to help business and cooperation; the joy is to help people doing business to absolutely succeed.
ALM: What would be your last message to the people of Nigeria on behalf of Argentina?
Ambassador Herrero: I am not capable of saying such a thing, but I would say that we have a lot of progress and we do a lot of things in Argentina, but we are not a perfect society, and we are ready to share with Nigeria, but there are a lot of things that are not on the right path, but I say, keep working, keep working, keep participating in politics.
You know, it is worldwide known that some politics is deadly, but you have to participate because I read about the last election and the participation was low, and that is not good. You know, if you don’t participate, you leave the scene for those who want to do bad things, and that is what they call business. So, that is what I think is the secret to worldwide society’s participation in politics, including women’s participation.