Interview: Yewande Sadiku
What challenges do foreign investors face?
YEWANDE SADIKU: Historically, foreign exchange liquidity and ease of doing business have been the biggest challenges for foreign investors. Investors complain about the inconsistency of government policies and argue for greater involvement in policy formulation. Greater engagement with investors in the policy formulation process, and ensuring coordination between the government and investors is fundamental for Nigeria. This should happen across all the different parts of government: ministries, departments, parastatals, the executive and legislative branches, federal and state governments, and so on.
What reforms have been enacted to improve Nigeria’s business environment?
SADIKU: The recent reforms resulted from the work of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council. These reforms were kick-started with the 60-day National Action Plan, which ended on April 21, 2017. This was followed by Executive Order 001, which is specifically targeted at improving the business environment in Nigeria, and is meant to institutionalise some of the reforms initiated by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, by introducing 48-hour processing for regular business and tourist visas, visa on arrival for business visitors and other initiatives to improve the experiences of investors.
How can foreign direct investment (FDI) add value and benefit local communities?
SADIKU: I think it is important that we source responsible FDI, not just chase any investment. There are different kinds of FDI, some seeking extractive industries and others seeking efficiency. We would like to see a mixture of FDI, covering a wide variety of sectors and types. For instance, FDI in the extractive sectors will provide jobs that will benefit communities; the right kind of FDI will ensure not only that these communities are getting an economic benefit, but also that companies are doing business in a manner that is environmentally sustainable. It is important for investments to add value, not only in the context of general economic development of the community, but also in the context of deepening collective wealth and creating jobs where there were none. These considerations should ensure that investments do not jeopardise the longterm interests of local communities.
How have the source markets for inbound FDI evolved over the past five years?
SADIKU: There is new interest in FDI, particularly from Japan and Singapore. It can take some time to fully convince Japan to make a decision, but we know they will fulfil any commitments they make. In terms of our relationship with Singapore, we work very closely with our strategic partners there, and we recently organised a visit to Nigeria by the minister of trade and investment of Singapore.
We are currently looking at both historical sources of FDI, as well as potential new sources of FDI that could be of interest to Nigeria. We are evaluating these potential sources of investment not only in the context of financial value and the number of projects undertaken, but also in the context of the number and type of jobs created. We are looking at how we can turn some of our trading relationships into investment relationships, especially for partners who have a long history of trade with Nigeria.
We are refining our country-targeted, sector-focused and company-targeted investment promotion strategies, and are working with state governments to better prepare them for investors. To facilitate this, we are strengthening our regional offices, to ensure they can effectively act as real collectors of investment opportunities in different states.
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