Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Mali and many others were among the countries that seized the opportunities presented by the ongoing Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) in Dubai to showcase their countries’ potentials to investors from over 100 nations.
The three days event which is in its 9th edition was initiated by the Ministry of Economy under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid All Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to bridge the gap between emerging countries and investors in the developed economies.
The AIM 2019 also provided an opportunity for small businesses to meet and pitch to potential investors.
“Every developing country must identify the gaps in its preparedness are the digital divide – what are your data privacy and consumer protection laws, how much are you investing in fiber optics, etc,” Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said on a panel on the first day of the event.
He further disclosed that Egypt had enlisted the UNCTAD in their quest to become the ecommerce capital of Africa.
Nigeria was ably represented by President Muhammadu Buhari who was also the special guest of the Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. During his keynote address, the President urged governments around the world to prioritize regulation of the digital sector in view of the daily threats its misuse poses to public and private institutions.
The President noted that the digital world which is both intangible and real has borderless powers to impact the lives of billions of people, no matter how remote their physical locations are. He acknowledged that despite the threats it portends if unregulated, it represents enormous opportunities.
“On the one hand, it has made the human race more productive and more efficient,” he said “Today we have digital banking, virtual currencies and many social platforms that connect people and cultures. On the other we have seen platforms hijacked and manipulated as evidenced by the steady rise in fake news and cybercrimes.”
Although Nigeria did not have an exhibition booth, Ondo and Niger states filled the void with separate exhibitions. A public official from Ondo state told BusinessDay that the government was prioritizing its gasification project to attract foreign investments into the state. The authorities believe that the state’s immense natural gas deposit remains very attractive in a future where fossil fuel is facing extinction.
Officials from Ghana also had a major message for investors at the AIM 2019. According to one of the officials who will not be mentioned, the Ghanaian government is increasing its investment in digital technology to accelerate faster, cheaper and easier way of doing business in the country. For instance the country now has a paperless port which ensures that clearance of goods at its national port is less time consuming for businesses.
Kituyi noted that African governments have little to fear with digitalization in terms of losing their control on the economy.
“Digitalization builds new efficiencies and creates new opportunities. There might be dislocations – but digitalization does not kill traditional economies,” he said.
Adewale Tinubu, Group CEO of Oando Group said digitalization becomes more beneficial when the government and private sector work together. For him the role of government is to provide an enabling environment – ease of doing business – patent protection and crash the price of broadband because a costly bandwidth does not help inclusion.