• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

International investors embrace Nigeria on back of rising profile

Nigeria’s recent emergence as the biggest economy in Africa and the rising profile of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, among others are compelling reasons why the country has become first port of call for investors, according to entrepreneurs.

The stakeholders, including Mohammed Shaibani, executive director and CEO, Investment Corporation of Dubai; Stephen Schwarzman, chairman/CEO, Blackstone Group; Ann Cairns, president, international markets, MasterCard; and Charles Robertson, global chief economist/head of macro-strategy, Renaissance Capital, said Nigeria’s untapped resources in some sectors as revealed by the recent rebasing of its Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and rising population with higher percentage of youth are capable of attracting international discerning investors.

Other speakers at the just-concluded Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai include Hamad Buamim, president and chief executive officer, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Ahmed Sulayman, chairman, DP World; Hanna Tetteh, Ghana’s minister for foreign affairs and regional integration; Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, president of Ethiopia; John Mahama and Paul Kagame, presidents of Ghana and Rwanda, respectively.

Schwarzman, whose company recently announced a $5 billion investment in energy projects in partnership with Dangote Industries, said his dealing with Africa was successful, particularly through Dangote, as the partnership was expected to grow his business faster with electricity which would lead to sustainable development.

He listed requirements for investments for sustainable development to include faith in the country, stressing that this required going through an insider as it had happened in the case of his joint venture with Dangote.

Others include education, aspiration of the citizens toward success in life, good governance or leadership and ease of doing business.

Shaibani, whose company recently invested $300 million shares in Dangote Cement, singled out existence of corporate governance coupled with high growth potentials as some of the factors endearing Dangote and Nigeria to the company for investment, promising more areas of cooperation in the future.

“I see myself having entrepreneurship as a common denominator between us. I can tell you that it is not easy to operate in sub-Saharan Africa, but the fact that Nigeria is the biggest in Africa and with the right partner makes our decision the right one. We want to use Dangote as a gateway to Africa, just as we want to use Dubai to reach the world,” Shaibani said.

Robertson said the country’s rebasing had made Nigeria 25 percent above South Africa, adding that he foresaw a change in the savings pattern of Africans from emergencies to education, which he said had the potential to bring about sustainable development.

Cairns said the rebasing had revealed a lot about Nigeria’s untapped opportunities, making it more attractive to investors.

She said the current partnership between Nigeria and SmartCard would be mutually beneficial as it would enhance the policy on financial inclusion and cashless policy. Besides, the multi- functional nature of the card would enhance quality of governance and lives of the citizens, she said.

Dangote, who admitted that the forum was capable of bridging the gap between Dubai and Africa, however, said that he saw brighter prospect in agri-business, adding that in the next five years Africa would be self-sufficient in some produce like sugar and rice.

He further said apart from the backward integration in the agri-business that could lead to emergence of processing industries, it employs the larger population of the youth, which he said could reduce insurgency in the country.

Buamim expressed optimism that the forum which attracted over 1,000 delegates from over 60 countries would further bridge the gap between Dubai and Africa on one hand and Africa and the Middle East on the other.

He admitted that Dubai had since improved its business relationship with Nigeria and Africa in general with Emirate Airlines’ increased flights to the region.

Presidents Mahama, Wirtu and Kagame were unanimous in their submissions that Africa’s transformation for sustainable development was only possible through good governance, investment in infrastructure, skills acquisition and judicious application of resources.

They also agreed that provision of energy through privatisation of power sector, provision of enabling environment, making opportunities from the challenges and elimination of barriers to trade among African countries should be pursued with vigour.

But Tetteh was quick to point out that although progress might have been made, a lot needed to be done, particularly in the areas of harmonisation of regulation and standards.

She challenged the heads of government and regional blocs to be alive to their responsibilities and embark on details and due diligence before seeking for financing.

She decried a situation whereby agreement on continental free trade area (CFTA) was taking more than seven years to be ratified, saying the different targets set by different governments might be responsible for the non-realisation of the single currency project by the region.

John Omachonu