The Embassy of Finland in Abuja wishes you a very happy New Year 2017. For Finland, this is a very special year indeed. One hundred years ago, we became an independent nation. It is a privilege to represent Finland in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Liberia during this important time.
With the many opportunities that this region offers, trade promotion continues to be at the very heart of our efforts. We work closely together with the Finpro trade promotion office in Lagos, as well as with our Honorary Consul, and Finnish companies. Last February, the visit to Nigeria and Ghana of our Deputy Minister for External Economic Relations and business delegation, with as many as twenty high level meetings packed in the space of a few days, was a great opportunity to present the expertise that Finnish companies offer, and to discuss cooperation.
In May, Finpro brought to Nigeria an ICT delegation from Finland, and earlier we hosted in Lagos a health and wellbeing event, with representatives from many different parts of Nigeria. We have promoted the Finnish 'babybox' concept, too - an important element of parenthood in Finland already for decades - and have spoken on many occasions about the kind of things that Finland and Finnish companies do in technology, innovation, education, health etc.
In Finland we have highlighted the opportunities, the strengths and the strategic potential of the region. We have spoken at many events, where we have been able to witness the growing interest that there is towards West Africa. We have offered concrete support to many of those keen and determined to make it in this region.
From West Africa, recent important visitors to Finland include the Foreign Minister of Benin in 2015. In May, we had the honour of hosting Professor Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari at 'Historians Without Borders' conference where he spoke along with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari. Representatives of the Nigerian legislature and Lagos State have visited Finland during the past year. I have also been delighted to see young people from Nigeria and Ghana take part in the annual 'SLUSH' start-up event. Nigerian media, too, have shown active interest towards Finland, and during the past year have visited the country on several occasions. Finnish NGOs active in the region, as well as many individual Finns, Nigerians and others with their personal efforts have of course also contributed to the relations between our countries.
The 99th Independence Day of Finland was recently celebrated in Lagos at an event hosted by the Nigerian-Finnish Association. It was great to see the strong commitment and the positive spirit of the many friends of Finland there. It was an honour to welcome H.E. Otunba Gbenga Daniel as the new President of the Association. I am delighted by the prospect of us working together during the Anniversary year and beyond.
In 2017, the Embassy, together with its partners, will continue to work hard to promote Finland-Nigeria relations, and those with Ghana, Benin and Liberia. We will redouble our efforts to give visibility to Finland in the region, as well as increasing awareness of the countries of the region in Finland. As part of Finland's official 100th Anniversary Programme - in cooperation with all Finnish Embassies in Sub-Saharan Africa, and with the support of Nokia - we will be taking on the ‘Codebus’ project that will bring together smart young women and men, innovators from Finland and the region, to work together on, and to learn more about computer coding – a crucial skill everywhere in the world today.
Along with all the opportunities, there are challenges, too, in the region. In Nigeria, the North-East, in particular, is going through difficult times. Some months ago, I was able to visit there myself. In addition to the hardships, I also witnessed a strong commitment and even great optimism towards a better future. My country is part of European Union and international efforts to alleviate the current suffering and to contribute to that vision.
In recounting recent events, I also want to take this opportunity once again to pay tribute to Markku Vesikko, Honorary Consul of Finland in Liberia, and long-time Representative of the Finnish Refugee Council, who passed away unexpectedly in October. We remain thankful for his service to his country and to the international community. His legacy will live on.
To the many friends of Finland, I convey my gratitude for your support, and I invite you to join us in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Finland's Independence. Let us keep up our common efforts and continue to work together, to realize the full potential that the relations between our countries hold!
Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Liberia