Ade Adefeko was appointed Botswana’s Honourary Consul to Nigeria in Lagos by Lemogang Kwape, the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana in December, 2020. On the 11th of January, 2021, he presented his letter of commission to the Nigerian Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency, Geoffrey Onyema in Abuja.
Ade Adefeko was born into the family of a Diplomat about 51 years ago. He attended Federal Government College, Odogbolu and is a 1990 graduate of Foreign Languages from the University of Port Harcourt. He has been described as a Commercial Diplomat and a Polyglot (he speaks 10 languages including French, English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba his mother tongue, Swahili, Zulu and Ndebele).
He is a record setting Nigerian, who is the first in Nigeria’s 60 years history to be appointed as Honourary Consul of Botswana to Nigeria in Lagos.
Ade Adefeko is presently a Vice President, Corporate and Government Relations at Olam International, unarguably Nigeria’s largest Agri Business and Food Company as well as Africa’s biggest Rice Farmer and Miller. He started off as a French Lecturer at Alliance Francaise, worked briefly in the Oil and Gas sector before picking up an appointment at British American Tobacco.
He also worked for years in the banking sector across a number of banks as a core banker and switched lanes within the same industry where he rose very quickly to become the Head of Corporate Banking at Societe General Bank (SGB).
As a communication guru and image manager, he further worked as public affairs director for Multichoice, owners of DStv. He is also the current Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) Agricultural Trade Group and a member of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and industry-LCCI Export Group. He is also the vice-chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Group (MANEG) and a member of the Industrial and Competitiveness Presidential Advisory Council.
In this interview conducted on Arise Television and transcribed by Idris Aloma for our publication, Ade Adefeko bears his mind on his ambition of service to humanity, his corporate, government relations insight and general matters arising from his recent appointment as Botswana’s Consul to Nigeria in Lagos.
Being a Nigerian, how do you feel as Botswana’s Honourary Consul to Nigeria?
These are very interesting times like I said when I presented my letter of Commission to the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nigeria had established relations with Botswana since 1966, which was the second African nation after Zambia and that, speaks volumes. Let me quickly correct the position of an Honourary Consul. An Honorary Consul operates where the Ambassador doesn’t operate, so you have the High Commission in Abuja and I operate from Lagos, so I am the Honourary Consul of Botswana in Lagos. This means that I represent the country’s interest in Lagos. I am going to be making sure I promote relationship and trade between Botswana and Nigeria. There is a lot to be done between both countries, let’s not look at the population, let’s look at the potentials, let’s not look at the challenges, let’s look at the opportunities. Those opportunities are the things I have been trying to bring to bear in our relationships. Actually as I speak to you, I am on my way to Botswana tomorrow.
*Tell us about the economic growth
of Botswana and the lessons to be learnt from them by other countries?*
Let me say something unequivocally, Botswana is about 2.1 million people, it is always joked about, but a serious joke at that because it is the truth, Botswana has more herds of cattle than people, but their potentials are not in the herds of the cattle but in other things they are very good at. They are a mining nation. They are also an agrarian nation to a very large extent because of the beef. Botswana is the largest producer of beef in Africa, so if a country of 2 million populations is the largest producer of beef in a continent of 1.5 billion people that says a lot. So with the ACTFA we will take advantage of the opportunities. For me, what I see are opportunities, opportunities and opportunities. These opportunities are what I am trying to highlight and I have been working on them. I have hit the ground running; I am going to Botswana in spite of the Covid-19. There is a lot to be done particularly in the area of tourism.
*What lessons can Botswana share with Nigeria in the area of mining?*
The lessons we can share there is what you call deregulations. Botswana is the largest producer of diamond as well and diamonds are not forever but diamonds are forever now in Botswana including gold. The country has the Botswana Development Commission BDC which is like a one stop shop for a lot of things being done in Botswana. BDC is like the NIPC of Botswana, what Nigeria should try and do is to have a one stop shop in Nigeria where all investment related activities can be done and harnessed. This is why I am particularly looking forward to the meeting with the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, who of course, I know has a very good understanding of how we should handle trade across the continent. For me tourism, agriculture, health, education are key areas of cooperationbetween Botswana and Nigeria. We have large swathes game, when you talk about fauna in Botswana. What I want to do is to bring a lot of Botswana to Nigeria and take many Nigerians to Botswana.
When I return, I want to do something noble by meeting with the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika for both countries to set up a BASA so that we can have direct flights from both countries. Don’t forget that right now as we speak, South Africa Airways is more or less moribund. Direct flight to that country is nonexistent, even me going to Botswana now, I have to do that via a connecting flight through Addis Ababa. You can understand how cumbersome it is to go through Addis first before I go to Botswana. Like I said, with the ACFTA, we need to do something and whatever we need to do, we need to do it right.
*How can Africa countries undertake successful joint ventures and partnerships with multinationals in the mining of solid minerals like we see in Botswana without the people being undermine?*
I like the partnership you mentioned, Botswana has partnership with most south African countries, of course they are in the southern part of the continent as well, to that extent, there is a lot going on and there is a lot that can be done. First those partnerships must be partnerships that work, there must be a handshake, for them, they do a lot of alluvia mining. For Botswana there is an efficiency and effectiveness in what they do. African countries must learn this.
Before I came on air here, I was listening to the PIB debate in Nigeria; we must know that regulation is very important in Nigeria, those are the things we need to do. Nigeria regulations have so many fake flukes. This is not however about Nigeria but Botswana, for me I want to bring the best practice from Botswana to Nigeria and vice versa, you export one and import the other.
*How is the mining sector supporting the country’s populations?*
The resources of Botswana have not been a curse but a blessing to its people. Education is free, health care is free and citizens are given money to set up businesses. So you can understand how easy it is for an average Botswana man, boy or girl to be able to do anything they set out to do. When you have these basic necessities free tell me, what better value can you get from government?
*How has political stability contributed to the country’s economic growth?*
Botswana had just 4 presidents since 1966. It has a semblance of smooth political transition from one leader to other, there is a good organisation over there. It is a rarity to even hear that there is coup in a country like Botswana. It is a tourism haven, political bedrock, an investment hub and oasis within the continent. It is small but mighty, corruption is at its lowest. Transparency International will tell you how transparent elections are conducted there in a free and fair manner.
Again on the financial front, the Deputy Head for Africa at World Health Organisation (WHO) is from Botswana. The country has some very prominent people in spite of the fact that it is a very small country.
*How also can we learn of constitutional democracy from Botswana to ensure political stability which has invariably encouraged economic growth and development in Botswana?*
In as much as I don’t like to comment on the politics of the country as a matter of policy, I will simply say that Botswana has a self correcting mechanism, anything that was supposed to happen and was derailed, self corrected itself. I make bold to say, that is a very good sign there is no hiccups as things are self corrected. With what has happened now, the world knows that Botswana is open for business and that is very important.
*You are appointed Consul of a small country, with one of the highest GDP per capita on the Continent, to Nigeria that has a dwindling GDP, what should both countries be learning from each other?*
The big country should try and complement the smaller one and the smaller one will complement the big brother in return. So the strength of the big will be brought to bear on the weakness of the smaller one and vice versa. Of course you know that they have the second largest pension fund in Africa after South Africa. South Africa has the PIC, of course Nigeria has its own pension fund that there was an attempt to try and take some money from at one point in time, but what is important is that there is enough in the basket to go round in Botswana. Again corruption is more or less nonexistent, I am not saying there is no corruption but it is more or less nonexistent.
These are the lessons we can learn from them and I think we should just take a cue from there. Nigeria is not doing badly being the largest economy in Africa, yes we are having dwindling resources because we have a mono product, rather than diversify into agriculture, mining, etc., those lessons are what we will learn and learn over time.
My tenure is not tenured, so I will continue to try and do my best to promote Nigeria-Botswana relations. Again you are speaking of the fact that they are stable, yes they are stable because they are homogenous; they speak one language called Setswana. There is that tendency for you not to fight when everybody speaks the same language unlike Nigeria who are heterogeneous people.
*What are the specific measures put on ground to checkmate corruption in mineral mining, because that is where corruption between foreign investors, who want to bastardize the system and some local collaborators, who want to undermine their country are found?*
Let me tell you something. They are able to curtail corruption because they have legislations and sanctions. It is often said that, what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done, to a large extend, they apply sanctions. Everything they do, they follow legislations and those legislations are backed up by laws, those enabling laws have been in place since independence to back up a lot of things that they do. There is zero tolerance for corruption. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the limelight, the effect of transparency in curbing their numbers and helping them to ensure that their borders are closed to South Africa, their neigbhour. The bottom line here is that we must realize that legislation is important and that is what has been working for Botswana.
*A lot of billionaires and other Nigerians may want to go on tourism or desire to invest in SMEs in that country, take us through some of the steps necessary to achieve these?*
I have already established contacts between Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and the President of Botswana, they had phone talks. Post COVID-19, I will be leading a Nigerian delegation of businesses from the large, medium and small scale industries which will be drawn from aviation, agriculture, manufacturing, light packaging etc, to Botswana, to go and set up. Botswana is an agrarian country and at the same time not an agrarian nation because it is a desert, there is not much that can grow, a lot of its food comes from South Africa, so what I want to encourage is that as far as we are, we should be able to get food across, food that they need. That will be when the BASA between both countries kicks off, though that is still at its infancy because I am yet to discuss it with the Minister of Aviation.
*Botswana is also said to be seeking for infrastructural development, what other key areas should be the focus of investors who are interested in that economy?*
What is very good again is that a lot of Nigerians like going to Dubai, London and other places, let’s begin to discover our continent. So Okavango Delta is a place where you discover nature at its best and you also have a lot of games, so many resorts where the British royal princes and princesses come and enjoy themselves. Tourism is very high and Nigerians like to travel but our problem is that if you don’t give them a visa before travelling or on arrival, it becomes a problem. I think the visa process in Botswana has now been worked on so you can get your visa on arrival in Botswana and you can get it again in Abuja and I will be able to facilitate that also from my office in Lagos. Tourism and agriculture are important things I think we should work on.
*What are the investment opportunities in beef in Botswana for Nigerians and are Nigerians willing to accept beef from that country when we already have cows here?*
What Nigeria should learn from Botswana is ranching. Nigerians can go there and learn the art of ranching. Botswana will bring its expertise to bear and we have what we call hybrids, we will however see how that works. They are not too strong on the diary but they are very strong on the beef and ranching part of it and that is an area where Nigeria is lacking and of course Nigeria import a lot of its beef from everywhere, we have our own beef but the beef we have is what you call good meat. But of course in terms of beef use for steak in the world, the largest producer is Argentina.
Take us through the merits of the ranching system in Botswana that could serve as an example to us here?
One of the merits of the ranching system in Botswana is that it is not political; the ranching problem in Nigeria is political. Whatever Nigeria decides to do on the ranching part, they can do, states can go with me, state governors alike, I will encourage my good friend Kayode Fayemi who is the Chairman of the Governor’s Forum to come with me to Botswana. I am told that the Governor of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde has been to Botswana to see the opportunities. It is already good that we have some governors and other Nigerians already going to Botswana to see the potentials of ranching.
*How were you able to learn 10 foreign languages and how have they been helpful to you in your career?*
I am 51 years now and I have been to 50 countries, so it seems I go to a country every year as it were. That means from the age of one, I have been travelling as it were. My father was an ex-diplomat. I have been traversing the world and for me language acquisition and language skills are things I have been trying to acquire over time. When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I knew that the Pope then, John Paul, the second from Poland could speak 12 languages, so I said to myself, I will want to surpass this pope, so I started learning different languages. Language learning and acquisition comes very easy to me, if I should stay in an environment for one or two months, I pick up the languages. Don’t forget also that a lot of these languages are more or less similar. French, Portuguese and Spanish are similar so it is easy for me. The only difference is that German is Germanic, closer to English, Swahili is closer to Hausa, etc., for me I use languages to break deals at different fora.
Which of them is your favourites, I will like you to say it on air?*
Good question, I will say my favourite is French, because after English, French is the second most spoken language (speaks French).
*How will your experience in various fields of human endeavour help you in this new position?*
What I will tell you is that it is a 360 degree thing. So for me it is important to have a world view. Travel is enlightenment. I have a world view because I am widely travelled. I don’t see things from a narrow prism which is why, when I went to Gederal Government College in Odugbolu and I met a lot of people from different states, I picked up different Nigerian languages. When I come to Lagos once in a while and I go to Badagry, I picked up Egu, there are some languages that I speak a little bit aside those ten languages, you can count about five of them or thereabouts. That has made me more rounded and has brought my experience to bear in that regards.
*Let’s look at how your impact in Olam has helped the country to be an investment destination in agriculture and related sectors. How can you expand the discourse in agric business between both countries in your new role?*
My job as an Honourary Consul is not a full time job; my full time job is still as Vice President of Olam. I am basically promoting investment as Consul, so as you know, Olam is the largest agric business company in Nigeria today.
We have been in Nigeria for the last 31 years and still counting. This is our 32nd year. We started in Nigeria, it is a Singapore company owned by Temasek of Singapore and Mitsubishi of Japan, from farm to fork, from seed to shelf, which is what Olam has been doing. Olam has a rice facility in Nassarawa worth $140 million over 10, 000 hectares of Rice Farm and Mill.
It is the home of Mama Pride Rice and if you look at the market today, Olam rice is the number one stable rice and Olam equally acquired Dangote flour in October 2019. For us, we can only go higher. Olam is in over 60 countries of which 24 are in Africa. So I will make Olam make Botswana the 25th country. We have an animal feed plant in Kaduna which President Muhammadu Buhari came to commission in 2017; we own Ok foods and confectionaries. There is a lot we are doing across board. We have investment in oil palm, an oil palm refinery in Lagos and so many others.
*You preached unity among Nigerians over the years, how do you think we can do more to build on this?*
Nigerians should understand that anytime there is an election, it is a four years cycle. Once a President is elected, no matter how much you like him or don’t like him, he has been elected at that point in time, all we need to do is to support him, yes he might make mistakes, you have a right to criticize him as well, but when you criticize and you don’t offer concrete measures to alleviate the suffering, you have not done any good. Talk is cheap you know. You often find out that people who served the government in the past and now criticize the present government, the question you have to ask such persons is that when they were in government, what did they do, if they have done better, we won’t be in the situation that we are now. I often laugh when I hear a former minister, DG, Governor etc, saying that this is not right, that is not right, when you were there, what did you do? And when you try to do and it didn’t work, why don’t you resign? I belief that we must take a prominent path and play a prominent role in the narratives of our country, and it is not by criticizing our country every time externally. Nigeria is not a bad country. There is unity in diversity. Do I believe in true federalism? yes I do, do I believe in state police? yes I do, but if there is a way and manner state police can be achieve, then let’s achieve it through the constitutional channel.