Prince Ebunola Martins is a Nigerian who has established a foothold in the Republic of Slovenia. In this interview with BANJI ALUKO, he speaks on business opportunities for Nigerians and Africans in Slovenia, what Nigeria can learn from the way government of Slovenia had evolved as one of the most peaceful and fast developing countries of the world
It appears you have found a home in Slovenia where you are doing well as a businessman. Why Slovenia of all countries in the world?
I have visited many countries of the world, so I can tell you what is special about Slovenia. First, Slovenia is one country in the world that doesn’t discriminate. From Maribor to Ljubljana and other cities, one is free irrespective of the colour of your skin. I have spent months in Slovenia and I have never seen a situation whereby one will be stopped because he is black. The people are accommodating and love to relate with foreigners. The policies of the government are not also designed to favour only their people. I was able to start a company in Slovenia because of the freedom allowed me, otherwise staring the company could have been a Herculean task.
Slovenia is a conducive place for business, especially tourism. In the 2017 Global peace Index, Slovenia was ranked 7th most peaceful country in the world. The country is one of the most beautiful and peaceful place in the world. Talking about crime, hardly can you hear a crime report. The standard of living is also high. One day, I was moved to ask my Slovenian friend if people don’t die in Slovenia. Seriously speaking, I realized that they live quality lives and eat good food. The environment is clean and green and food is not a challenge. In terms of businesses, the government is willing and ready to assist entrepreneurs, who want to start genuine businesses in Slovenia. I don’t work for the Slovenian government, but I have been able to relate with their Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Trade. They are ever ready to support you because they really want to develop their country. The people are also not dubious, maybe they don’t have any reason to be anyway. They respect themselves and I think they respect their names.
What are some of the oppoutinuties for a Nigerian, who wants do something in Slovenia?
One of the strong points of Slovenia is tourism. This is where I have found opportunity in Slovenia. The country is one of the most beautiful places in the world with alps and mountains that are covered in ice. The country is serene with a wonderful view. It is a great place for ski jumping and diving. There are so many interesting places to visit for someone visiting Slovenia.
I opened an office in Slovenia because I feel it is a good place to invest.
What are the other sectors an investor can put his money?
Away from tourism, real estate, medicine and power are some of the other sectors one can invest in. There is also a thriving manufacturing sector in Slovenia with companies producing solar panels, machines and other modern equipment. With our epileptic power situation in Nigeria, Slovenia, though a smaller country, offers some new frontiers in power generation and smart Nigerians can invest in it. I have visited a company that manufactures small airplanes in Slovenia.
What are the lessons Nigerians could learn from Slovenia?
Number one is that Slovenians love their country and can die for it. They also love their fellow citizens. This is what I think is lacking in Nigeria. If you love your country, you will not want to take what belongs to your country. If you love your neighbour, you will not want to deny him of his right. Slovenia is a country where you have rights as a citizen and as a foreigner. There is free education from primary to the university in Slovenia. As a citizen, you don’t have to worry how you will pay for your education. The government takes care of their people and the people in return love their country. Those are the differences between us and them.
I have seen someone in Slovenia who retired as Mayor and started working in somebody’s farm. A local government chairman in Nigeria cannot do that because he would have suddenly become rich.
I can also tell you that there are companies in Slovenia who can help solve the power situation in Nigeria through bio-gas. With bio-gas, you don’t have to bother yourself about natural gas. With bio-gas, you don’t have to complain that gas pipelines that are scattered everywhere have been bombed. I know of companies in Slovenia that can help Nigeria do these things. What I don’t seem to understand why Nigeria has refused to tap into these opportunities to finally end the poor power supply in the country.
What of racism?
The people in Slovenia don’t behave anyhow. They accommodate you and are happy to see you around. A visit to Slovenia is like a visit to a typical Nigerian village decades ago. You must have heard or read about the hospitality of those days in the villages. The Slovenian government does not have an embassy in Nigeria but I’m certain if they begin to get more application in Nigeria, they will open an embassy. Currently, the Hungarian embassy handles their correspondences here on behalf of the Slovenian government. Off course, things cannot be as easy as when you are dealing with the Slovenian embassy.