Nigerian Ambassador Sees Promise at USF

Nigerian Amabassador

Dr. George Obiozor has been Nigeria's Ambassador to the U.S. for two years.

But, more than two decades ago, he met and became friends with Walter Clarke, the senior advisor to USF's Global Center for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Action.

OBIOZOR: Friendship is the beginning of everything.

Ambassador Obiozor visited USF this week on Clarke's invitation.

OBIOZOR: I was so delighted. In fact, the programs the university has in education and health is so attractive that I'm going to write about it to my government and tell them that we have a university in the US that has the capacity and potential to be of great help in our development process.

Obiozor has previously served as the Nigerian Envoy to Israel and Cyprus, as special assistant to presidential advisors and as Director of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. Education is so important to him - his preferred title is professor - it's even on his official business card.

OBIOZOR: Part of my job as an ambassador, if I see something good in America which can be replicated in my country I look for the relevant agency in Nigeria to come and see and see what we can do incorporating with that kind of organization or agency in the U.S.

Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa. Its 150 million people represent 25 percent of the entire African population. Obiozor believes with investment from the U.S. his country has vast potential.

But right now, Nigeria is looking for help with basics such as agriculture - U.S. technology to increase crop yields of yams, cassava and rice and technology for food preservation.

OBIOZOR: I went to Lubbock, Texas and I saw a factory that has capacity for preserving food. I was so fascinated because in many African countries not only do we have seasonal production and when the season is over starvation sets in. because people cannot preserve the surplus.

He says Nigeria has many potential markets such as telecommunications. In 1999 Nigeria only had 400,000 telephone lines. Seven years later, Obiozor says because of privatization there are now 25 million telephones.

The ambassador says there is potential for similar booms in road building and energy production.

OBIOZOR: A company here in Tampa, Granite Services Inc. is a major participant. The Granite group are working in four states to ensure energy supply so, privatization is working to the benefit of the country and friends like the people of Tampa and the United States.

He points out that such help is two-way. Nigeria is currently the fifth largest oil supplier to the U.S.

OBIOZOR: In the near future, very, very soon the largest supplier of the U.S. oil - petroleum to be very specific - will be from the West Africa sub-region and Angola. That is, Africa is now a challenge is a source of supply of petroleum to the United States. That's not a myth it's a reality.

Obiozor believes Nigeria is on its way to becoming as developed as India and Brazil within the next 10 to 20 years.

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