Interview: Hajiya Ladi Katagum

From which countries has Nigeria seen the greatest increase in foreign direct investment (FDI)?

HAJIYA LADI KATAGUM: The UK continues to be the most important source of FDI in Nigeria and is likely to maintain this position because of our historical relationship and deep-rooted economic ties. The UK is followed by the US, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Countries such as the Netherlands, China, Egypt, UAE and South Africa have also shown a growing interest in investing in Nigeria, on the back of their consistently being targeted by the NIPC during our business and investment forums.

The downturn in economic activities in more developed economies, coupled with the recent crash in oil prices, may alter these trends, with large quantities of foreign investment tending to go towards the country’s hydrocarbons and telecommunications sectors. However, the saturation of more developed markets and the dwindling market share of some companies is likely to push them to Africa, which is richly endowed with largely under-exploited mineral resources.

What role can state governments play in encouraging inbound investment?

KATAGUM: Every investment in Nigeria is directed towards one of 36 states or the Federal Capital Territory. It is therefore important for state government investment regulations to be in tandem with federal rules. Some investors complain of multiple and overlapping taxation strata from federal, state and local governments. An effective harmonisation of the tax regime across these layers would tackle a major impediment to inbound investment. Creating layers of complementary incentives would also encourage greater investment. Measures that accelerate FDI can help to create a favourable business climate, and include policies, regulations and incentives that work towards reducing the cost of doing business. In addition to synchronising the tax system, we are working to improve our approach to public-private partnerships, so as to tackle Nigeria’s large infrastructure deficit in sectors such as power and transport.

Other efforts to boost inbound investment include improving state licensing environments, which will reduce the burden on companies and entrepreneurs seeking permits. One-stop business centres can serve as a point of contact between businesses and state regulatory agencies; this would reduce the duplication of processes, paperwork, time and resources used to register and facilitate business operations. The NIPC recognises the need to grow the capacity of states in terms of investment facilitation, and is currently providing technical assistance to seven state governments, namely Ogun, Delta, Rivers, Plateau, Niger, Cross Rivers and Oyo. The assistance includes setting up state investment promotion agencies and one-stop shops for businesses.

What sectors currently offer the greatest returns on foreign investment, and why?

KATAGUM: Agriculture, solid minerals and power are central to the government’s current efforts to diversify the economy, and have huge potential for growth. As a sector, agriculture may provide the highest return on investment. The country currently expends significant foreign exchange to import agricultural products such as rice, wheat and chicken to meet local demand. With effective investments in agriculture, each of these goods could be produced and made available within the country. Moreover, solid mineral resources – for all their diversity and abundance in Nigeria – remain largely unexploited. Nigeria could be a net exporter of many minerals, which would generate considerable foreign exchange earnings.

Other attractive prospects include the automotive industry, renewable energy, education and the health sector. Each of these sectors faces a large supply gap and is well-positioned to receive greater investment.