By PHILIP IKPONKO
Foreign businesses interested in investing in Africa have been encouraged to take a look at the very attractive opportunities available in Nigeria as the country’s economic outlook for 2018, and in the near future is very positive.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma and Trade, Industry and Investment Minister, Dr Okey Enelamah at various events and bilateral meetings with global business leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF) which ends in Davos, in Switzerland, on Friday, marketed the potentials of Nigeria and encouraged investors to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.
At a dinner hosted by the Vice President for investors in Davos on Wednesday night, Senator Udoma said that there are opportunities available in agriculture and agro-processing, industry, mining, construction, infrastructure and services as Nigeria has one of the largest markets in Africa.
He told the gathering, which also included Nigerians in the Diaspora, that the government is determined to revamp the economy by improving the enabling environment for all investors, both domestic and international. He informed them that the aim of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which was launched by the President last year, is to restore growth by diversifying the economy, stabilizing the macroeconomic environment, investing in infrastructure and improving the country’s business environment, amongst others..
The Minister emphasized that the main principles behind the ERGP are to tackle the constraints to growth, leverage the power of the private sector, allow markets to function, whilst upholding the country’s core values and promoting national cohesion and social inclusion.
The Minister was happy to report that since the ERGP was launched and implementation commenced, the economy has started showing signs of improvement. Indeed, he pointed out that, already, one of its objectives has been achieved as the economy emerged from recession in the second quarter of 2017, with GDP showing a marginal growth of 0.72%. By the third quarter of 2017, the growth level doubled to 1.40% with strong showing in Agriculture which grew by 3.06% and Industry by 8.83%.
Other positive indicators, he emphasized are the growth in the level of Capital Importation which increased to $4.145 million in Q3 of 2017; Foreign Reserves which grew to N39.43 billion in January 2017 and Inflation which declined to 15.37% by December 2017. He also indicated that there has been a narrowing of the gap between the CBN rate for foreign exchange and the parallel market rate. All these he listed as evidence that confidence in the Nigerian economy is coming back.
He was also happy to report that even though the Nigerian Government set itself the target of moving 20 places up the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings by the end of 2017, Nigeria actually surpassed that target, as the 2017 report issued in October last year showed that Nigeria had moved up 24 places to 145 from the 2016 placement of 169. The World Bank also recognized Nigeria as one of the top ten reforming countries in the world, the Minister added.
Emphasizing government’s determination to drive its economic agenda to achieve the broad principles of restoring and sustaining economic growth, building a competitive economy and investing in the people, the Minister said government is focused on achieving a least 7% GDP growth;$10 billion in Foreign Direct investment; 10 GW of power generation and placing among the first 100 countries on the Ease of Doing Business ranking by 2020.
He assured the gathering that Government that all these goals were achieveable with the effective implementation of the ERGP. He pointed out that one of the measures, amongst many others, that government was embarking on to see to the effective implementation of the ERGP is the holding of sector specific labs, or workshops. These sector specific labs, which are fashioned after the Malaysian model, will be conducted, initially in three sectors i.e. Agriculture and Transportation, Manufacturing and Processing and Power and Gas.
He explained that the objective of the labs is to gather together in one place all the persons required to take decisions on major investments that can revamp the particular sector, i.e. the potential investors, senior government officials, sector experts, state government officials and so on, to resolve all project implementation hurdles. At the end of the labs MOU’s will be signed for specific projects. The Minister indicated that, in selecting possible projects for implementation there will be emphasis on those that will increase investments and job creation. He went on to say that the MOUs will include detailed implementation plans for each project, with identified budgets and key performance indicators.