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Edo, Sweden Mull Bilateral Relations Prospects, as Obaseki Highlights Gains in Culture Tourism, Education, Digital Innovations, Others

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By Violet Osatohanmwen Obamwonyi

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has reiterated his administration’s unwavering commitment to improving the lives of Edo people through fruitful partnerships and bilateral relations with global bodies and developed nations.

Obaseki made the remark while receiving the Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, Annika Hahn-Englund, at the Edo State Government House, on Tuesday May 14, 2024, in Benin City, wherein he highlighted the efforts and established frameworks by his administration, to position Edo as a pivotal center for culture tourism, commerce, education, digital innovation, and transportation.

Addressing the visiting Ambassador and other members of her delegation, the Governor underscored Edo’s unique status as a convergence point, while emphasizing the plethora of opportunities and potential for fostering sustainable socio-economic progress, available in the state.

According to Obaseki: “I want to formally welcome the Ambassador and her delegation. Welcome to Edo State. It is really nice to have you on your maiden visit to Edo. Sweden is one country I personally am in awe of, having visited many years ago. What struck me is the level of creativity and innovation there. So I am not surprised that we are enjoying quite a few bilateral agreements and arrangements relating to manufacturing, products and services from sweden.

“For us in Edo as you will find out in your short stay here, we are perhaps the most strategically well located state in the country, because you cannot go from the eastern part to the west or to the south-south without going through Edo State. We are a junction state and because of that, we are an economic, transport and energy hub, because all the national infrastructures for gas, electricity goes through our city.”

The Governor, highlighting the significance of a bilateral cooperation between the Swedish Government and Edo State, noted that his administration’s transformative initiatives have been people-centred, while reiterating its commitment to fostering an investor-friendly environment in the state.

He said: “What we have done in the last 7 years is to focus on our people. When we came into office we had a major problem with migration. We worked very closely with the European Union (EU) to curb the incidence of irregular migration and human trafficking in Edo State.

“At some point we had over 30,000 young men and women trying to cross over to Europe. Edo was number one in terms of human trafficking and irregular migration, but today we are not in the league at all. That has changed.”

Obaseki further stated that his administration has undertaken major transformations, particularly in creating a business and investment-friendly environment in the state, with an effective transportation system, and gas availability for power generation, and a host of other incentives, emphasizing the state’s focus on education, culture tourism, digital infrastructure, manufacturing, energy efficiency, and logistics.

“What we have done is to focus on our young people; try and reorient them, emphasize education, particularly the foundational education, and also job training and placement, especially in new areas like technology. And we are very excited that it is an area of focus for you. We have partnered the private sector extensively to provide opportunities for people to work in Nigeria, giving them training and also building the digital infrastructure.

“Today we have constructed over 2,000 km of fiber optic network across the state. We have also focused on culture and entertainment because of the creative instincts of our young people, enabling them express themselves. We have created a cultural district where government is investing and attracting partners to invest in infrastructure, to support the creative industry, be it film, music or creative arts”, Obaseki added.

On her part, the Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, Annika Hahn-Englund, who was delighted, visiting Edo State for the first time, expressed gratitude to the Governor for his warm reception. She affirmed that based on the accounts of Edo’s progress in key sectors and the evident potential she has observed, the Swedish Government is eager to collaborate with the state, in such areas as energy, transportation, culture, ICT, and education, with emphasis on issues surrounding digital literacy, technical training, and irregular migration.

Annika said: “It is a great honor for me and my delegation to be here, today. It is actually the first visit from me to Edo State and I have heard so much about the state and Benin City. So I am very thrilled to be here. Sweden have been in Nigeria since independence. Our diplomatic relation is more than 60 years. We seen the increased interest from both sides to work together. We have some swedish companies that are active in many different sectors in Nigeria today. I see many possibilities there.”

“I see so many areas of cooperation between Edo State and Sweden.We will be happy to see a number of students from here study in Sweden.”

She further stated that plans are underway for improved partnerships between Sweden and Edo State.

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