By Akpandem James, Special Adviser (Media), Minister of Budget and National Planning.
With economic policy initiatives yielding positive results coupled with a stable political climate, this is the right time to invest in Nigeria, Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, told participants at the UK-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum in London.
Senator Udoma who was speaking at the plenary session of the Forum said Nigeria’s outlook for 2018, and over the medium term, is very positive as the country had since exited recession and the economy is steadily growing again.
He explained that as part of government effort to transform the economy and deliver sustained, diversified and inclusive growth, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) was put together and several initiatives in the Plan are being implemented to remove constraints to investments. Some of the initiatives include the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and the Focus Labs.
The ERGP is a strategic road map targeted at restoring and sustaining growth, building a competitive economy and investing in our people, he explained.
Enumerating reforms and initiatives introduced across various sectors of the economy, Senator Udoma said the Central Bank of Nigeria has established Investors and Exporters Foreign Exchange window to deepen the Foreign Exchange market, boost liquidity and accommodate all Foreign Exchange requirements.
The establishment of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council as a vehicle for partnering with the private sector on the industrialisation agenda, completion of 60-day National Action Plan on Ease of Doing Business including the Visa-on-arrival policy and issuance of Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business, are other initiatives of government which the Minister mentioned.
He also mentioned the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) with budgetary provision of N46 billion in the 2017 budget and N46.39 billion in the 2018 proposal; and partnering with the private sector on infrastructure development including the Road Trust Fund Scheme, Concessions’ arrangements, Public Private Partnerships, etc.
Pointing to the on-going Focus Labs with initial focus on Agriculture and Transportation, Power and Gas as well as Manufacturing and Processing, the Minister said the labs are being conducted to unlock private investments and tackle constraints to investments.
While stressing that growth has been restored in the economy, he explained that signs of recovery from recession were observed in the third quarter of 2016, and by the third quarter of 2017 real GDP grew by 0.72% indicating the economy’s exit from recession. “Recovery Consolidated in the third quarter through the fourth quarter of 2017 with GDP rising to 1.92%. Real GDP growth for full year in 2017 was 0.83% from -1.58% in 2016”, he added.
Given the positive impact the reform initiatives has had on the economy and the improved management of the economy by the current administration, the Minister said investors’ confidence is returning, capital inflows are increasing, inflation rate has declined from 18.72% in January 2017 to 13.34% by March 2018; Foreign Reserves have grown from $23.81billion in September 2016 to $46.55 billion by April 4, 2018 and the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking has improved and is up by 24 places from 169 in 2016 to 145 in 2017.
Nigeria, he said, is a country with enormous potentials with vast opportunities for investment given its rich natural resources including oil wealth, solid minerals and fertile land.
“It is one of Africa’s largest economies with large market for any prospective business. It is well located to provide gateway for trade expansion across the rest of Africa and the World. It has a strong political leadership and is an active member of the Commonwealth with strong trade and economic links with the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries”, he stated.
The Minister emphasised that the country is politically very stable and general election is now routine, every four years. “This is the time to invest in Nigeria”, he said.
Other presenters, including Ms Razia Khan, the Managing Director, Chief Economist, Africa and Middle East, Standard Chartered Bank, also supported this positive outlook for Nigeria. In her contributions, Ms Khan, an economist, emphasised that, unlike in the past, Nigerian growth was getting a little more balanced as the non-oil sector was also beginning to grow. She commended the Government for developing a long term plan which has helped to restore confidence.