By Omololu Ogunmade in Yokohama, Japan
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Yokohama, Japan rallied the Asian nation to massively invest in Nigeria, assuring that the country has enormous investment opportunities that guarantee the highest returns.
Speaking at the third plenary session of the second day of the seventh triennial Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7), Buhari described the period of the conference as an “opportune moment” which he tagged as the case of “investment meeting opportunities” in Nigeria.
The president who praised what he described as the existing bond of economic and business relationships between Japan and Nigeria, was swift to add that such relations were strategic for the country’s socio-economic development.
Buhari who advocated increased trade and investment in Nigeria from Japan, also unveiled a new initiative, Japan-Nigeria Business Facilitation Council, which he described as Japan’s fresh initiative to serve as the platform for trade operations between Nigeria and Japan.
Appreciating Japan for this initiative, the president who disclosed that the council would be formally launched upon his return to Nigeria, expressed optimism that this fresh initiative would further foster increased trade between the two countries.
The president also described the schedule of TICAD7 as strategic for Nigeria, noting that the event was coming at the time Nigeria was confronted with economic challenges which prompted it to diversify the economy to agriculture and manufacturing.
He insisted that the period of the conference was strategic because it was also taking place at the time the country was not only striving to address both the energy crisis and infrastructure deficit plaguing it but also holding at the time the federal government is promoting private sector-driven economic initiatives meant to enhance good governance, human capital development and business climate reform.
“Nigeria appreciates the existing bonds of friendship and economic cooperation with Japan, a strategic partner for our socio-economic development. In this regard, it is our intention to further encourage relationships with key public and private sector stakeholders.
“I am also pleased with the discussions on the establishment of the Japan-Nigeria Business Facilitation Council, an initiative of the Japanese government, which would be launched on our return to Nigeria. I look forward to positive reports of increased trade and investment between Nigeria and Japan from these initiatives.
“The TICAD Forum is important to Nigeria in many respects. First, it coincides with the period when the country is faced with a number of challenges that affect our economy. Our government has put in place measures seeking to diversify the economy by developing agriculture, emphasising on manufacturing and addressing the energy and infrastructure deficit. With these, we shall be placing Nigeria on the path of rapid growth and sustainable development.
“Secondly, the Forum is coming at a time when our government is implementing home-grown and private sector-driven economic measures that are predicated on good governance, infrastructure and human capital development as well as business climate reform.
“We therefore invite the private sector to come and invest in Nigeria.
Thirdly, the Forum is holding at an opportune moment, as it is a case of ‘investment meeting opportunities.’ Nigeria has very attractive investment opportunities with some of the highest returns on investment.
“In the light of the foregoing, Nigeria and indeed Africa, expect much from this Forum in terms of investment, considering the role of the foreign direct investment in all economies-developed and developing,” Buhari stated.
Attempting to maximise the opportunity of the conference to Nigeria’s advantage, Buhari proceeded to enumerate viable sectors which he said the federal government had identified as the platforms for driving the country’s economic agenda.
He further wooed Japan to take advantage of the activities of the Presidential Committee on Enabling Business Environment established by the federal government to enhance ease of doing business in Nigeria, saying the country was committed to eliminating known hindrances to private sector-driven investments in Nigeria through favourable policies.
Specifically, Buhari listed areas of investment which he urged Japanese investors to explore to include: power, renewable energy, petrochemicals, automobile, gas, agribusiness, healthcare, among others.
“Furthermore, our administration has identified important sectors that are key drivers to the diversification of the economy. These include: power, transportation, infrastructure, maritime/shipping, agro-processing, mining, manufacturing, petro-chemicals, food processing and textiles, among others. We consider these sectors as priority areas that will drive our economic agenda.
“I have also established a Presidential Committee on Enabling Business Environment which is made up of key ministries and prominent businessmen to promote the ease of doing business and make Nigeria more attractive and competitive for investment.
In this regard, we are committed to removing all impediments to private sector participation in these sectors by creating policies that will ensure consistency, predictability and a level playing field for all.
“In view of the foregoing, reform programmes of our government, Japanese investors are invited to invest in the following priority sectors in Nigeria, namely, power and renewable energy, petrochemicals and gas, maritime (shipping and ports), automobiles, mining, agribusiness, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, ICT and railway,” he submitted.