Buhari’s renewed drive for foreign investment

The renewed drive for foreign investment by President Muhammadu Buhari administration is a welcome development that should be sustained.

President Buhari, on October 26, 2021, was in far away Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to attend the 5th Edition of ‘The Future Investment Initiative Summit’. He took along with him key government officials and a good number of private sector operators. In his address titled ‘Investing in Humanity: The Nigerian Perspective’, Buhari highlighted the investment potentials of Nigeria (human and material) to the global audience.

We commend him for taking the bold step to market our country’s abundant resources. We also call for more of such initiatives, especially at this critical period of our nation’s economic and social development. This is what Nigerians expect from him and other leaders.

In the face of Covid-19 pandemic and volatility in the global oil market, Nigeria’s economic outlook remains highly uncertain. Uncertainty around the pace of vaccinations and the duration of Covid-19 persists as well as unexpected shock to oil prices, and weaknesses in the financial sector.

Even in the most favourable global context, the policy response of the Nigerian government will be crucial to lay the foundation for a robust recovery and we are glad that Mr. President realized this fact as indicated in his Riyadh speech.

As a developing country, Nigeria needs international support in its quest to address insufficient infrastructure, build strong and effective institutions, as well as address governance issues and public financial management systems.

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Nigeria’s investment

Inequality, in terms of income and opportunities, remains high and has adversely affected poverty reduction. The lack of job opportunities is at the core of the high poverty levels, regional inequality, and social and political unrest. High inflation has also taken a toll on household’s welfare and high prices of goods and services is daily pushing more Nigerians into poverty

In the short period of its existence, the Riyadh investment summit has emerged as a credible forum for interaction between the public and private sectors, to explore ways of advancing economic growth, development and global prosperity.

The decision of the organizers of this year’s summit to look at ‘investment’, not only from a profitability and wealth accumulation point of view, but also bringing prosperity to humanity in general, is equally commendable.

As President Buhari said, the humane approach to investment is the only way to address the global challenges we face, especially in the Covid-19 era.

Indeed, for any forward looking nation such as Nigeria, investing in humanity is the right thing to do. The early neglect of this fact is the genesis of most of the insecurity and socio-economic challenges Nigeria and, indeed, the world is experiencing today.

In its 6 years in office, the current administration has made huge investments some of which the president highlighted in his address. They include diversification of the economy from oil to more inclusive sectors such as agriculture, ICT and mining and tackling corruption, insecurity and climate change; and introducing a Social Investment Programme.

As a developing country, Nigeria needs international support in its quest to address insufficient infrastructure, build strong and effective institutions, as well as address governance issues

The administration has also introduced policies that support investments in agriculture and food processing, provided loans and technical support to smallholder farmers, through the Anchor Borrowers Programme, resulting in Nigeria today having over 40 rice mills from less than 10 in 2014. Nigeria also has over 46 active fertiliser blending plants from less than 5 in 2014.

The signing into law of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) would serve as a catalyst to liberalize the petroleum sector. Government has also introduced a number of incentives such as tax holidays, 100 percent ownership, zero interest loans and easy transfer of funds.

Infrastructure investments and solid minerals represent significant potential for investors in Nigeria. We have opportunities in seaports, rail, toll roads, real estate, renewable energy and many others. And the country is rich in minerals such as gold, iron ore, tin, zinc, cobalt, lithium, limestone, phosphate, bitumen and many others.

In addition, the development of social infrastructure such as healthcare and education present enormous opportunities for investors in a country with a huge population. Digital economy, which has remained the fastest growing sector in both 2020 and 2021, has vast opportunities for investment in broadband, ICT hardware, emerging technology and software engineering.

Already the government has approved the national policy on Fifth Generation (5G) network with the aim of attracting investors in healthcare, smart cities, smart agriculture among others. There is no doubt that the benefit of real time communication will support all other sectors of the economy

However, the government alone cannot and will not provide all the needed jobs and infrastructure. It needs the support and cooperation of the private sector through strong public-private partnership which would bring the needed massive investments.

Regrettably, a crucial opportunity for the needed synergy, the 27th Nigerian Economic Summit (NESG), a private sector-led initiative, was missed by our President as he chose to attend the Riyadh Saudi Arabi Summit against the one held a few metres away from his Abuja office. Even Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo who, we learnt, was asked to represent him, was not physically present. This, in our view, did not come out fine.

Be that as it may, while we commend President Buhari’s initiative to woo foreign investors, we advise that it should not be a one-off thing nor left alone to the President. All government officials should be involved in the renewed drive for investment because more of such opportunities will help attract the badly needed foreign capital.

We believe that if this new drive is combined with private capital-friendly policies, Nigeria will soon reap greater results because the world is awash with investable capital some of which we can use to grow our economy and boost jobs.

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