The visiting Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications, Anne Berner, on Wednesday attributed her country’s socio-economic development to the government’s commitment to ensuring high-quality education for all.

Ms. Berner was visiting Nigeria to attend the 16th Meeting of the Nordic and African Foreign Ministers on “Ensuring Sustainable Development through Trade and Investment: The Africa-Nordic Engagement’’.

“Education is an important factor contributing to economic growth, and an area where Nordic partners have added value.

“In Finland, we believe that the key to our economic success has been in ensuring high-quality education for all.

“What is very clear is that girls’ education makes economic sense, in addition to being just and fair.

“Investment in women boosts economic development, competitiveness, job creation and Gross Domestic Product. No economy can afford to ignore such a huge potential,” she said.

Ms. Berner, who is also the Finnish Minister for Nordic Cooperation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, also noted the role of the private sector in promoting sustainable development in Finland.

The dual minister described Africa as a continent with vast natural resources and human capital, as well as enormous markets.

She also announced that the Prime Ministers of the five Nordic countries, had recently launched an initiative called “the Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges’’.

According to her, the initiative will focus on innovative Nordic solutions for carbon-neutral development, sustainable cities, food and welfare, as well as gender equality.

“Today, with ever greater interdependence between Europe and Africa, we in the Nordic countries are expanding our partnership with African countries.

“Africa is a continent of vast natural resources and human capital, and potentially enormous markets.

“The mere presence of Nordic and other companies in Africa is a testimony to that potential,” she said.

The Ambassador of Finland to Nigeria, Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury, restated her Embassy’s commitment to the promotion of trade between Nigeria and Finland.

According to her, there will be more win-win and mutually beneficial trade relations opportunities between Nigeria and Finland in the near future.

“Last year we had a very successful visit to Nigeria by our Deputy Minister for External Economic Relations, with a business delegation.

“And I am looking forward to more exchanges and increased trade between our countries,’’ she added.

The Finnish compulsory education system consists of a 6-year primary school education, followed by a comprehensive 3-year period in middle school.

Education in Finland has no tuition fees and fully subsidized meals are served to all full-time students.

There is also a day care programme (for babies and toddlers) and a one-year `pre-school’
(or kindergarten for six-year-olds).

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