Interview : Yewande Sadiku

In what ways do perceptions of prospective investors differ from the experience on the ground?

YEWANDE SADIKU: The biggest concern that investors raise relates to some inconsistencies between what the regulators announce and what investors experience when they set up their business. Furthermore, regulatory agencies often give the impression of heavy-handedness. To resolve such issues, the NIPC is dedicated to the promotion of investment through an “all of government” approach. This needs to continue for the efforts to improve the business environment to have an impact. To further these aims, we are paying increased attention to improving Nigeria’s ranking on global competitiveness indices as benchmarks for success, following the same approach that government has taken with the World Bank’s ease of doing business index.

How can the government and the private sector leverage technology to facilitate investment?

SADIKU: In 2018 we started profiling investment opportunities. So far, this work has been done manually, but we expect to deploy software in early 2019 to showcase specific opportunities across the country. The database we are building will be searchable by sector and region. This is expected to shorten the window between interest in a particular sector and investment in that sector. In order to streamline the pioneer status incentive, we are also establishing an online application process that we expect to be fully operational by 2019. This procedure is similar to that used for visa applications, where online submissions can be made and tracked against published timelines.

In addition, in 2018 Nigeria became one of just a few African countries with a comprehensive online investors iGuide. This resource provides basic information on the costs involved in setting up a business, along with labour and land matters and information on the competitive advantages of each state in Nigeria. We have also been working on an initiative to crowd in the private sector through an investment promotion club. This will enable us to use private sector expertise and human capital to help with the process of converting investor interest into actual investment in Nigeria.

What impact have investment incentives had?

SADIKU: We published a new comprehensive compendium of investment incentives in October 2017, to help investors easily find incentives in the country. At the moment it is difficult to identify the most impactful incentives because of a lack of data. As part of our push for greater transparency in the wake of the pioneer status review in August 2017, we have recently released our first report on all applications processed each quarter. We are working on undertaking an impact assessment to better understand the costs and benefits associated with the incentive, based on the information we compiled on applications made between 1999 and 2016. We have had several conversations with international organisations on undertaking an impact assessment on the full gamut of incentives, but this requires time.

How successful have efforts been to attract international investment to the non-oil sector?

SADIKU: Through various announcements made since early 2018, we are noticing the spread of investor interest to the non-oil sector. Progress is happening much slower than we would like, but we are heading in the right direction. As we develop the capacity to track investment announcements, we hope to follow trends across sectors and address any obstacles that emerge, as investors actualise these announcements. To further boost the growth of the non-oil sector, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has been working on the Made In Nigeria for Export programme, which is focused on attracting investments into the special economic zones, starting with the cotton, textile and garment sectors. I dream of the day we shall see high-end electrical products with a “Made in Nigeria” stamp.