Education, Commerce, and Unity: Unpacking the Shared Visions of Ukraine and Nigeria

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In a heartwarming interview with a team from the African Leadership Magazine, the Ukrainian Ambassador-designate to Nigeria, Ivan Kholostenko, highlighted the blossoming relationship between the two nations. The ambassador expressed optimism about the potential for strong Ukrainian-Nigerian relations, aligned with Ukraine’s commitment to Africa and Nigeria.

The attendance of Ukraine’s Foreign Minister at President Tinubu’s inauguration marked a historic step, signifying Ukraine’s eagerness to foster new bonds. The ambassador emphasised trust-building through cultural exchange, understanding, and shared values, leading to positive outcomes in diplomatic efforts. The power of cultural exchanges was acknowledged, fostering mutual understanding and forging deeper diplomatic, economic, and social ties.

The ambassador embraced the growing number of Nigerian students studying in Ukraine, despite challenges. The collaborative potential of Ukrainian and Nigerian businesses, fostering trade and economic growth, was underlined.

He celebrated the Nigerian people’s hospitality and kindness, foreseeing a reciprocal warmth for Ukrainians in Nigeria. Cultural diplomacy’s role in bridging nations was highlighted.

Mr. Ivan Kholostenko addressed some shared difficulties that are germane to the relations between the two nations.




Your Excellency, developing a robust and long-lasting relationship between Nigeria and Ukraine necessitates mutual understanding and collaboration. How do you see the future of this relationship, and what feelings come to mind when you consider the potential benefits it can bring to both countries?


I believe that there is powerful potential in Ukrainian-Nigerian relations, and a long history of development awaits us. This idea totally complies with Kyiv’s official position. Our foreign policy course is directed towards the African continent and, of course, towards Nigeria. In May, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, attended the inauguration of His Excellency President Tinubu. It was for the first time in the history of bilateral diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the Federal Republic of Nigeria that Ukraine was represented at the inaugural events at the level of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

This shows the commitment of Ukraine to develop relationships with the new administration, and more broadly, it sends a message to African nations that we come with mutual respect and we want to work with African countries. We hope to build comprehensive cooperation and have already started to do so. There is a long way ahead, I am sure, and prosperity and the mutual benefit of our countries await it.


Diplomatic ties are frequently built on trust and open communication. How do you approach building trust and meaningful connections with Nigerian officials and residents, and what feelings do you feel when you see the beneficial results of your efforts?


For any diplomat, observing positive results from his performance is the best reward possible. Ultimately, this is the essence of our work—building relationships with partner countries. I think the secret to establishing relations with the citizens of a country is, first of all, immersion in their mentality and traditions. I am happy to study the peculiarities of interaction between Nigerians, the manner of communication, and the nuances of ethics and protocol. We come from different parts of the world, but Ukrainians and Nigerians are united by an important feature: hospitality. I have the pleasure of noting this every time we have negotiations and meetings with Nigerian colleagues.


Cultural exchanges between Nigeria and Ukraine have the potential to increase understanding and develop ties. How do you feel when you observe Nigerian and Ukrainian people embracing each other’s cultures, customs, and values, hence bridging the two nations’ friendship?


Our rapidly globalising world presents an opportunity for cultural exchange and fostering people-to-people contacts. Encouraging cultural interactions, educational exchanges, and tourism between the two nations can deepen mutual understanding.

Both Ukraine and Nigeria boast remarkable cultural diversity within their borders. Ukraine, located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe, has a vibrant tapestry of traditions, arts, and music deeply rooted in its history.

On the other hand, Nigeria, with its rich tapestry of more than 250 ethnic groups, exhibits a fascinating amalgamation of art, music, literature, and folklore.

Cultural exchange is a powerful catalyst for fostering understanding, appreciation, and friendship between nations. This flourishing partnership between Ukraine and Nigeria is not only enhancing cultural understanding but also paving the way for stronger diplomatic, economic, and social ties.


Education is critical to establishing international collaboration. How do you feel about the growing number of Nigerian students studying in Ukraine, and what feelings do you have when you see the positive influence of educational exchanges on bilateral relations? Economic cooperation is a cornerstone of diplomatic relationships. How do you feel when you see Nigerian and Ukrainian businesses forging partnerships, creating job opportunities, and driving economic growth in both countries?


You are absolutely right. Education and business are the two most important platforms on which cooperation between our countries is based. Ukraine highly appreciates the trust that Nigerian students place in our educational institutions. In 2022, about 8.5 thousand Nigerians will receive education in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, by launching a full-scale invasion, the Russian Federation not only endangered the lives of Nigerians but also shook the educational system. However, now we are ready again to provide educational services to students from the African continent. Several interesting projects are currently being considered. For example, foreign students will be able to take final exams at Ukrainian universities abroad in special certification centres.

Also, we are considering the possibility of cooperation between Ukrainian and foreign universities, which will give students the opportunity to receive double diplomas. We welcome every student from Nigeria who decides to get an education in Ukraine. And we are proud that Ukrainian education helps Nigerians build a strong, healthy, and economically powerful nation. I would like this trend to increase rapidly in the future. Our Embassy is ready to contribute in every possible way to this.

Business, in turn, has been and continues to be one of the main tracks of cooperation, to which we pay special attention.

Ukraine and Nigeria are two vibrant countries with diverse economies and vast potential. Our partnership holds the promise of unlocking mutually beneficial opportunities, fostering trade, and promoting investment between the two nations. As Ukraine and Nigeria work together to explore new avenues of collaboration, they are poised to reap substantial rewards and drive economic growth. We have a lot to offer each other; it remains only to arrange logistics.

The two countries have recognised the importance of diversifying their trade portfolios and are actively exploring opportunities to increase bilateral trade. Ukraine, known for its agricultural prowess, offers Nigeria a rich source of grain and agricultural machinery. Conversely, Nigeria, with its vast mineral reserves, provides Ukraine with an opportunity to reduce its dependency on traditional suppliers. By expanding trade in these and other sectors, both nations can create new avenues for economic growth and job creation.

Besides, Ukraine has emerged as a global hub for IT outsourcing and software development, while Nigeria’s tech ecosystem is rapidly expanding, fueled by a young and vibrant population. Collaboration between Ukrainian and Nigerian tech companies can lead to knowledge sharing, joint ventures, and the development of innovative solutions tailored to the needs of both markets.

We are actively working to seek new contacts between businessmen and encourage dialogue.


People-to-people ties are the foundation of long-lasting friendships. How do you personally experience the Nigerian people’s kindness and hospitality, and what feelings do you feel when you see genuine friendships emerge between Nigerians and Ukrainians?


Nigeria welcomed me with great hospitality. Abuja is called the “Centre of Unity” for a reason. I believe this was laid out as the basic idea of the city. And this is being implemented quite successfully. This city is a combination of different cultures and people. And it is my pleasure to note that there is a place for each of them.

The centre of Nigeria is glad for every guest. I think it’s part of the Nigerian mentality. I am pleased to think that there is a place for Ukrainians here as well. So they can find their niche and feel at home. I strongly believe that Ukraine will become the same cosy place for Nigerians during their studies and stays. For my part, I am ready to make every effort to strengthen this good tradition of hosting guests.



Cultural diplomacy may be a valuable tool for building international relations. How do you feel when you see Ukrainian cultural events and exhibitions enthralling Nigerian audiences, cultivating cultural appreciation, and boosting conversation between our two countries?


As I have noted, cultural dialogue is important. From culture, we draw our experience, the concepts of good and evil, and the wisdom of the generations that came before us. By understanding each other’s cultures, we can build more comprehensive cooperation in all areas and enrich our own heritage. Over the past few years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has paid great attention to cultural dialogue with our partners. And, of course, we try to conduct cultural diplomacy as actively as possible.

Recently, the embassy team has been fueled by new members. And we have brought to your beautiful country not only new employees but also several projects that we would like to implement. We want to share our food, music, and movies with Nigerians. Before the war, Ukraine started to develop its movie industry. Unfortunately, now this tool is mostly used to demonstrate the horrors of war to the world. For now, Ukrainians are fighting to protect the right to grow our own kind within our own culture.

However, I believe the Embassy will screen our films, including animated ones, which will allow the Nigerian audience to better understand Ukraine and Ukrainians. Nigeria is also actively boosting its film industry. Nollywood has become the second-largest film industry in the world, surpassing Hollywood in terms of movie production. That is why I see a vast field for two nations to cooperate.


The Ukrainian diaspora in Nigeria is important in linking the two countries. How do you feel when you see how Ukrainians living in Nigeria contribute to the cultural, social, and economic fabric of both countries?


Since my appointment, I have been looking forward to exploring the Ukrainian community here. Apparently, Ukrainians managed to build quite a community in Nigeria. This is not surprising given our close ties in education. As a rule, Ukrainians get acquainted with Nigerians at universities. And sometimes such communication develops into relationships and marriage.

I am very happy to see the creation of such multicultural families. And I am happy to note that my and your compatriots find a common language, focusing not on differences but on the commonalities of our cultures. It is especially pleasant to note that children born into such families have the opportunity to draw the best from both branches of the family. I think these kids are the future. They have the potential to become a connecting bridge between different parts of the world, and subsequently, they will teach us multiculturalism and diplomacy.



Long-term development and humanitarian cooperation are critical components of bilateral ties. How can you personally connect with the emotions of empathy and compassion when watching Nigeria and Ukraine’s coordinated efforts to address similar difficulties and uplift underprivileged communities?


Unfortunately, this problem cannot be denied. It is worth noting that we go through similar difficulties in many ways. For example, Ukraine is well aware of the problem of famine. The horror of the Holodomor years, artificially created by Soviet Russia on the territory of our country, is forever imprinted in the genetic memory of millions of Ukrainian families.

It was this idea that became one of the fundamental ones when our country assumed the role of guarantor of the food security of the world and Africa in particular. President Zelenskyy launched the “Grain from Ukraine” humanitarian programme, within which Ukrainian food products are being sent to countries in Africa and Asia. Now we are working on the transfer of 25,000 tonnes of Ukrainian food wheat to Nigeria.

That is why, despite the war, we are doing everything possible to provide Africa with grain. Unfortunately, the aggressor’s army is systematically trying to sabotage the food supply for those who need it. On Monday, July 17, Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. However, the Black Sea Grain Initiative consists of two deals: one signed by the UN, Turkey, and Russia, and the other signed by the UN, Turkey, and Ukraine. Russia has broken only its part of the deal with the UN and Turkey.

Ukraine’s deal with them remains in place. Ukraine is dedicated to its goal of supporting global partners in Africa. So Ukraine, the UN, and Turkey will jointly ensure the operation of the food corridor and the inspection of vessels. Apart from grain, as I have already noted, we are actively working to establish business ties between our entrepreneurs. Business development, job creation, and strengthening both economies—this is the way for Ukraine and Nigeria to solve the problem of underprivileged communities.


As this interview draws to a close, we would like to know, as the Ukrainian Ambassador to Nigeria, how you think we can deepen our partnership and reap long-term benefits for both countries. What emotions come to mind when you imagine a future in which Nigeria and Ukraine are trustworthy partners, supporting each other’s success and prosperity?


This is a very good question. Cooperation between two such large states should and will always be multidirectional. Like a well-built house, our relationship is made up of many bricks, cemented together by mutual respect and a vision of a shared future. First of all, of course, we would like to pay attention to economic cooperation. Close cooperation between the businesses of the two states will lay a solid foundation.

Further, I see the development of political ties. Nigeria is already demonstrating its readiness to go in this direction when it votes for the adoption of pro-Ukrainian resolutions at the UN. I would like to express my gratitude to our Nigerian colleagues separately. Military-technical cooperation will be an important part of our relationship.

Now there is a military attaché at the embassy, and I am happy to note the results of the work performed. As I have already mentioned, we must also keep in mind the development of cultural cooperation. I am very pleased that I have the opportunity to address the Nigerian audience through the pages of your publication. I hope that my words will be heard and encourage Nigerians to establish more comprehensive relations with our state and our people.

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