I was happy to deliver remarks at the Investors Webinar organized by the Bureau of Public Enterprises in collaboration with the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission with the theme “The International Perspectives of Nigeria’s Business Environment”. I expressed my confidence in the opportunity that the country provides and emphasized the need to de-personalise investment opportunities and focus on the overall impact the investments would make. As a passionate investor in Nigeria, I know first-hand that there are opportunities we can leverage to drive economic growth and development. From where I sit as the Group Chairman of United Bank for Africa (UBA) – a business that was catalysed in Nigeria and today operates in 20 African countries servicing over 25 million customers, with over 1,000 branches across Africa – and with my extensive investment journey through Heirs Holdings, I have outlined a number of factors that are critical to actualising the potential of our beloved country. I summarise these in 5 succinct buckets:
1. Security: There is need for greater urgency in tackling the rising rate of insecurity in Nigeria, especially as it concerns our oil and gas sector. Currently, the average monthly oil theft is about N52 billion, accumulating to a N620 billion per year – about 10% of budgeted revenues from oil sales – loss to theft. This is a huge loss to our National economy especially at a time when we are experiencing a favourable oil price trend. Additionally, addressing security issues will encourage investment, as investors are looking out for safe and secured environments.
2. Healthcare Reform: The health sector needs urgent attention. Only 5% of almost 200 million Nigerians have access to health insurance. This statistic is worrisome, particularly in view of a global pandemic that has left millions vulnerable. If we are unable to fix this access to healthcare through favourable policies, we will be jeopardizing our ability to build a productive and functional economy. Health, after all, is wealth.
3.Infrastructural Development: Infrastructure plays a fundamental role in economic growth. It forms the bedrock that drives the capacity of an economy to thrive. A focus on power, transportation, gas and technology infrastructure will serve as the engine that would keep the Nigeria experiment moving forward. Power in particular is the soul of an economy and this is why our business group continues to invest in this sector and pursue growth as demonstrated by our recent investment in the Afam Power Plant where we have increased generation by 241% in just a few months.
4. Public and Private Sector Partnerships: With the right public and private sector synergy, opportunities abound to drive growth and economic development. Convenings like this is a chance for key players from both sectors to harmonize private and public sector objectives and renew commitments in putting the much-needed work to improve the living conditions for all.
5. Entrepreneurship: I have seen what poverty can do and I have also seen what economic opportunities can do for people. Every day, through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, thousands of young people are empowered to utilize entrepreneurship to uphold the country’s economy, equally enabling its status as an investment hub. Entrepreneurship has the capacity to unleash innovation and wealth across all strata of the society. A conscious focus on growing and expanding its tethers into our socio-economic fabric will help in addressing a number of the challenges we face as a country and at the same time, support our economic development.