TBY talks to Jean-Marc Ricca, Managing Director of BASF West Africa Limited, on the value of operating in Nigeria and expectations for the year ahead.

BASF West Africa Limited opened in Nigeria in 2012. What have the main achievements been for the company since then?

Our focus on Nigeria is due to the size of the country and the confidence we have in its future. We are involved in a wide range of industries spanning from agriculture, construction, appliances, shoes, hygiene, and beauty to construction and oil and gas. Being actively involved with these industries, BASF acts as an enabler for our customers to create value for the man on the street.

In which of Nigeria's sectors can BASF West Africa create the most value?

We have eight business units operating in Nigeria currently. However, looking at the specific needs of Nigeria, our focus is on developing a project for sustainable and affordable housing through our Construction Chemicals business unit. And, our agricultural and food nutrition business units will add value and offer solutions for food security within the country. We are engaged with various stakeholders to ensure we target the right industries ensuring advanced life sustaining benefits to every individual.

Which of BASF's products hold the most potential in terms of future demand from the Nigerian market?

Infrastructure is perhaps the biggest but also most important area of development in Nigeria. That means anything related to construction, infrastructure, roads, and the renovation of existing buildings, bridges, and other structures are key for us. This is why our Construction Chemicals unit was the first one to establish a footprint in Lagos by opening a manufacturing facility during 2016. The agricultural business unit is growing due to the need of food production and crop protection, and working alongside the agricultural division is our plastics unit to combat food spoilage caused by poor storage of perishables. The plastics division's cold-chain solutions can ensure preserving and keeping fruits and vegetables fresh during the crucial period before they reach customers.

What role can the company play in helping Nigeria reach the governments' objective of diversifying the economy?

BASF is involved in innumerable industries; our products may not be seen, but they are used in people's everyday lives. For us, localizing is key and there are many ways to contribute; however, we have started by developing local teams within all the business units and from a business point of view, to take the time to understand the local environment and dynamics. We are creating opportunities and unlocking industries, with an understanding that we will need to be flexible and adapt our solutions as needed.

How can BASF achieve its strong sustainability objectives here in Nigeria?

Sustainability is at the center of everything we do. This concept runs throughout our business units. We are actively scouting for projects by engaging with local authorities, agencies, and NGOs, thereby working in partnership with all our stakeholders on the importance of sustainability. Over and above the economic and environmental dimension in sustainability, there is also a social element that is critical to us. Because we operate among communities, we create value not just for our customers, but because we are truly driven to find value for the country itself.

What is the significance of West Africa, and the Nigerian market in particular, for the overall strategy of the company worldwide?

Nigeria is an important market for reasons, such as the size of the country at 180 million people, as well as it being rich in natural and human resources and culture. Also, we understand that Nigeria is one of those countries that actually has an impact not just on itself and its people, but also on its neighbors, as stated by Christine Lagarde of the IMF in June 2016. BASF will continue investing in resources, its people, and our assets in Nigeria as we envisage helping to drive the Nigerian market to become fully captured both from an investor and consumer point of view.

What are your goals and expectations for 2017?

Our goal is to continue on our path of growth regardless of the current turbulent conditions. With the right focus and our dedicated team leveraging its capabilities, 2017 will be even better than 2016. Like for our peers and customers, addressing the foreign exchange topic will remain a priority for us, however our experience from 2016 showed that mastering this challenge can contribute to business development.