First Edition Of The Nigeria-Canada Investment Summit

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It is a very special pleasure to be here at the first edition of the Nigeria-Canada Investment Summit. Let me join His Excellency, the Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada, in welcoming all of our visitors to Nigeria, especially those visiting for the first time. I trust that you will, while here in Abuja, take advantage, as the High Commissioner has offered, the warm hospitality and rich culture that Nigeria offers, but perhaps, also as he suggested, try our culinary delights. I would suggest in addition to suya, the less spicy option is kilishi.

Nigeria and Canada have a long history of friendly relations as Commonwealth countries, as Federations, as well as a shared commitment to promoting global peace as shown by our common track record of contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Our bilateral relations were further strengthened by the recent visit of the Right Honourable, Julie Payette, the Governor-General of Canada. And everyone is still talking about how down to earth and inspirational she was. This summit further confirms the mutual desire of our two countries, for deeper engagement, not just between our governments, but also our business communities.

Nigeria as we’ve heard repeatedly is Canada’s largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, but as you have also heard from the Nigerian Ambassador for Canada and also the Canadian deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria, there is tremendous opportunity and scope for increased trade and investment ties between our countries.

The need to fully realize Nigeria’s immense investment potential impelled us, more than two years ago, to launch a process of reforms aimed at improving Nigeria’s business environment, with the inauguration of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which the president asked me to chair.

The Committee was tasked with progressively removing the challenges faced by investors in doing business in Nigeria and ensuring coordination across several Ministries and Agencies of government. With the support of the leadership of the National Assembly and the State Governors, we were able to drive reforms that earned us a place last year as one of the world’s 10 top performing economies.

The reforms continued in 2018 and have resulted in further improvements in Nigeria’s ease of doing business score, for the third time in the last three years, especially. We’ve also recorded improvements in the perception of Nigeria’s competitiveness. Although some of the results are modest, we have arrested the decline in Nigeria’s indices and positioned our country as clearly committed to incremental reform.

We are now in our fifth consecutive quarter of economic growth, after five quarters of negative growth in 2016/2017. Of course, the growth rate needs to be ramped up in order to surpass the growth of our population and build on the momentum of economic change. Other macroeconomic indicators continue to trend in the desired directions with inflation falling from about 15.9% this time last year and now levelling out at about 11.3% over the past four months. Of course, it needs to come down even more. We are confident that the encouraging results will further propel the reforms needed to entrench economic growth and prosperity.

In the coming years, the prospects of Nigeria as an investment destination will be even brighter. In two decades, we will be the third most populous country in the world, and at the same time, one of the youngest countries in the world.

With the on-going efforts at harnessing the entrepreneurial energy of our youthful population, we expect meaningful contributions not just to Nigeria’s GDP, but in developing home-grown solutions that will move our continent towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nigeria will be the 14th largest economy in the world, and one that every company seeking growth and an investment destination worthwhile in Africa will need to pay attention to.

Our medium-term economic plan, documented in our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), identified some of the sectors that many Canadian investors are already familiar with as priority sectors, and these include; power generation, clean energies, development of gas to power, mining of solid minerals, agriculture, food processing, manufacturing and real estate.

However, opportunities also abound in social infrastructure especially education and healthcare, as well as, physical infrastructure (air, land and sea transport). While we formulate the policies in government, we expect the private sector to make the necessary investments and encourage Nigerian and foreign investors to work with us towards the realization of these opportunities.

To accelerate the mobilization of private capital towards the achievement of the ERGP, we conducted ‘Focus Labs’ over a period of 17 weeks in the first half of this year. These Focus Labs are special interventions targeted at resolving specific bureaucratic bottlenecks facing large-scale investments in Nigeria. In the labs, investors sit with relevant Ministers, regulators and government agencies, to resolve the investors’ specific problems that they may have. The Focus Labs identified $22.5billion worth of private investments in six of our priority sectors, with the potential to create half a million jobs by 2020.

$10.9billion of these investments are “almost ready to go”, meaning that the issues delaying them can be resolved and are being resolved speedily. We intend to continue the use of focus labs to resolve problems investors may have. So, we also encourage Canadian investors, interested in any of these sectors not only to participate in these Focus Laboratories as we conduct them but also to reach out to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) who are here for the summit, for any additional information. And they’re here for the two days of this summit, the DG also, would be speaking at this summit and many of their officials are here and they will be extremely helpful I’m sure, in answering any questions you may have.

So, given Canadian’s strengths in these areas and the potentials of the Nigerian economy, I am certain that this Summit will lead to positive outcomes for all participants. All of the efforts I have just outlined, around Ease of Doing Business and the resolution of bureaucratic issues can be summed up as ‘soft infrastructure’. We are making aggressive interventions in the ‘hard infrastructure’ elements as well with roads, rail, power, air transportation because we fully understand the very vital catalytic role that these play for private investment.

The implementation of our vision for a modern national rail network that connects all 36 States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory is well on course. Power generation and Transmission capacity are up forty per cent in the last three years, investments in airport and seaport upgrades are also on-going.

All these infrastructure upgrades, in turn, open up fresh opportunities for the private sector to participate, by way of public-private partnerships, concessions, and additional investments. We are under no illusions that the Nigerian Government can by itself, fund Nigeria’s infrastructure requirements. So, we certainly welcome you to explore how you can be a part of the changing story of our infrastructure.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this Summit offers the opportunity to discover Nigeria first hand, to go beyond the news headlines and some of the clichés, and come to a deeper understanding of what makes us tick: the entrepreneurial energy, the optimism, the fast-growing impact of technology, and so on. The recently released Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum ranked Nigeria as 13th in the world in terms of taking entrepreneurial risk, which as we all know, is the lifeblood of successful economies.

I encourage you, while here, to explore Nigeria’s online Investors Guide, which has useful information on how to set up a business, indicative costs of select services and will guide you on understanding labour, land, tax and other matters.

For the more established visitors to Nigeria, I trust you have noted that a lot of your feedback drove our reforms at improving our country’s business environment. Please keep the feedback coming, to help us on our journey of continuous improvement.

The relationship with Canada will continue to be a very important one for us. Our records show that over the last five years, Canada has announced a number of important investments in Nigeria, which will lead to jobs and economic opportunity for our people.

I am aware of recent discussions between our Ministers on the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement which Nigeria and Canada signed in 2014. I understand that some more work is required to ensure that the agreement comes into force as soon as possible and that our teams have been involved in discussions on how to achieve this.

We are strengthening and empowering the government agencies involved directly with investors. NIPC, which is the agency established to represent the interest of investors, is working on several initiatives aimed at better achieving its mandate. They have recently completed a revision of the list of Pioneer Status Incentives – the last time such a review was done was about 10 years ago. The recent revision has modernized the list, expanding the tax holiday incentives to qualifying companies in E-commerce, Software Development, Animation, Music, Film and TV.

The NIPC is now in the process of building a database of investment opportunities across Nigeria, to guide potential investors. And so, I encourage all investors to make them the first port of call for information and guidance on investing in Nigeria.

We are committed to listening to you as investors and engaging with you. Please be assured that we remain committed to driving further reforms, especially in the areas of security and the rule of law and improve the experience of doing business in Nigeria.

I hope that in the time you will spend here in Nigeria, it will at least, give you a better feel for the prospects of doing business here, and Nigeria’s abundant investment opportunities.

Let me once again say how delighted I am to see the great partnership behind the organization of this Summit and commend the organizers: the Nigeria High Commission in Canada, The Canadian Embassy in Nigeria for their cooperation and Prime Essentials Development and Investment Ltd., for coming up with such a great idea.

My appreciation also goes to all the endorsers and sponsors from Nigeria and Canada, for their support for this initiative. It is my sincere hope that this will be the start of a new visitor in business and other economic relations between our two countries.
Thank you very much, and it is now my very special privilege to declare open, Nigeria Canada Business Summit.

Thank you.