- Meets French, Swiss leaders seeks their cooperation
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured potential investors that Nigeria will soon be one of the most attractive places to invest as his administration has embarked on significant economic reforms to realise that goal.
A statement issued wednesday by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari gave the assurance to a large gathering of political and business leaders from the United States, Africa and other regions of the world at the Second United States-Africa Business Forum in New York, wednesday.
The forum was organised by the United States Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The Nigerian leader said the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would soon come out with wide-ranging business environment reforms on ports, visa-on arrival, improving the speed and efficiency of land titling and business registration.
Some fiscal incentives, he noted, included up to fiveyears tax holiday for activities classified as “pioneer;” tax-free operations; no restrictions on expatriate quotas in Free Trade Zones; and a low VAT regime of five per cent.
“We intend to make Nigeria one of the most attractive places to do business,” he declared, even as he noted that Nigeria remained the number one investment destination in Africa.
Buhari added that his administration would continue to strengthen government institutions in order to address the concerns of investors and ease investments in the Nigerian economy.
“We are weaning ourselves from a historical dependence on crude oil, diversifying our economy, and putting it on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth. To this end, we have embarked on policies aimed at establishing an open, rules-based and market-oriented economy. We will continue to actively engage with the private sector at the highest levels to listen to your concerns and assure you of our commitment to creating enabling policies in which your businesses can survive and thrive,” Buhari said.
He urged participants to “take advantage of this forum to establish and strengthen business relationships, share valuable experience and collaborate for mutual benefits.”
Buhari stated that enormous potential existed for foreign investment and for the local economy.
He listed the following as sectors that investors could take advantage of: Nigeria’s 180-million population and abundance of labour; arable land; forest waters; oil and gas; solid minerals; livestock and huge tourist potential.
According to him, these are no doubt challenging times for the Nigerian economy.
He added: “But let me use this opportunity to boldly affirm our conviction that there is no crisis without an accompanying opportunity. In our case, we see Nigeria’s ongoing economic challenges – occasioned mainly by the fall in oil prices – as an opportunity to set the economy firmly on the path of true diversification, sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity.”
The president said the reform measures taken by his administration since inception in 2015 had started yielding good fruits especially in the areas of security, anti-corruption and revamping the economy.
He said the priority investment sectors for his administration were improving infrastructure, industrial productivity, agriculture, mining and digital economy where “young Nigerians are increasingly demonstrating that they have the talent and the passion to leverage.”
On US Nigeria business relations, he announced the commencement of the US-Nigeria Commercial and Investment Dialogue with a focus on the infrastructure, agriculture, digital economy, investment and regulatory reform to be jointly led by the Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and his US counterpart.
Buhari said after this business forum, he looked forward to increased trade and investment flows between Nigeria and the US.
Meanwhile, Buhari has applauded the long history of economic relationship between Nigeria and France on the one hand, and Nigeria and Switzerland on the other.
At separate bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the ongoing 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States of America, the president welcomed more investment and economic partnerships, saying Nigeria was a fertile ground for handsome return on investments.
“Apart from your country’s close relationship with us, you have the same with most of our neighbours,” Buhari told Francois Hollande of France even as he asked for more collaboration, particularly in agriculture, mining and security.
The president told his French counterpart of the Presidential Committee on the North-east, which he described as a one-stop mechanism on development partnership for a zone that had been ravaged for many years by Boko Haram insurgents, and which needed urgent rebuilding.
Responding, President Hollande pledged that France would not only fully engage with Nigeria on different fronts, but would also provide humanitarian assistance in the North-east.
“We will invest in Nigeria, we believe in her,” the French President said.
At another audience with President Johann Schneider-Ammann of Switzerland, Buhari sought his counterpart’s cooperation on speedy repatriation of Nigerian money stashed in that country, stressing that Nigeria needed such resources, particularly for infrastructure.
With the two countries having agreed on projects to which the restituted funds would be deployed, Schneider-Ammann promised quick action, as soon as the draft agreement was signed. He also pledged consolidation of mutual trade relationships, infrastructural development as well as support in training and equipping of the Nigerian military.