The Country Director, World Bank, Nigeria, Ms. Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, said yesterday in Abuja that despite the current infrastructure challenges facing Nigeria, the country remains the most attractive place for both local and foreign investors.
Marie-Nelly stated this during the launch of the World Bank's Investment Climate Assessment, ICA, Report in Abuja.
She said there was need for the country to improve its business environment in order to maximise the hugely untapped investment opportunities that exist across the country.
According to her: "Nigeria has the most attractive environment for investment because it is a large market in the continent; the second largest economy in the continent. Nigeria, she said, is a market that any investor cannot ignore with over 160 million people and a gateway to ECOWAS. For me, while we say the country's current investment climate could be better in terms of providing electricity, access to finance and other things, you should also look at the huge opportunities for investment in Nigeria.
"The basic lesson from the World Bank Assessment Report titled "Nigeria, An Assessment of the Investment Climate in 26 states" is that there are critical constraints in Nigeria that impede the development of the non-oil sector. Some of the critical issues include electricity, which affects the productivity and competitiveness of enterprises.
However, the labour cost in Nigeria is actually lower than most of Nigeria's competitors such as Brazil and South Africa. So, there is need for Nigeria to address some of the constraints in order to take advantage of the huge investment opportunities that exist in the country."
In his Keynote address titled "Reforming Nigeria's Investment Climate", the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, said his ministry had already embarked on far-reaching investment climate reforms to improve the county's competitiveness ranking and attract more Foreign Direct Investment into the country.
Aganga stated that his ministry was partnering the Ministry of Power on the provision of uninterrupted electricity to nine industrial cities by the first quarter of 2013.
He said, "Very soon, most of our SMEs will start to feel the positive impact of our Investment Climate Reforms Programmes, which we have embarked upon.
In terms of electricity, we are working with the Ministry of Power to ensure that nine industrial cities have access to uninterrupted power supply by the first quarter of 2013. But in terms of improving our doing business and competitiveness ranking, it will take at least a year for the reforms we are implementing to reflect because samples have already been taken in June last year before we began the reforms.
In order to make Nigeria the preferred destination for investment globally, my ministry has already commenced an Investment Climate Reform Programme in October 2011 with support from the World Bank and DFID. We are currently working with the Corporate Affairs Commission, to reduce the number of days it takes to register a business, the processes and the cost.
In addition, we are working to ensure that business registration can be done from the comfort of homes and offices. As a pilot, we are also working with the Ministries and Agencies under the Lagos State Government to reduce the cost and time of obtaining construction permits, registering property and enforcing contracts. We are working with the tax authorities at both the Federal level and in Lagos State on how to reduce the time and cost of filing taxes.
"The Doing Business and Competitiveness Committee and the Investor-Care Committee have been revived and have recently inaugurated their technical committees.
The Doing Business Report Monitoring and Review Committee will regularly monitor, review and recommend improvement on existing policies and legislation that govern the act of doing business in the country and other day-day issues faced by the industries that are barriers to enhanced productivity.
The After-Care Committee will handle the deluge of complaints from investors on account of apparent irregularity and inconsistency in the implementation of some Government policies."
Speaking during the launching of the report, the Governor of Anambra State and Vice Chairman, Nigeria's Governor's Forum, Mr. Peter Obi, said that foreigners' perception of Nigeria was at variance with the true situation in the country.
Obi said, "The perception of Nigeria by foreigners is far worse than it is in reality. The truth is issues about Nigeria are usually over exaggerated by foreigners. The South African Brewery in Anambra, which will be commissioned this month, is the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa.
But if they show you their report and perception about Nigeria before coming to build their plant in the country, they wouldn't have invested in the country. For instance, If you look at Heineken's global income, 11.5 per cent of their income is from Africa and Middle East.
"Out of this 11.5 per cent, six per cent comes from Nigeria. Today, Guinness derives 6.1 per cent of its global income from Nigeria. In fact, Guinness sells more in Nigeria than its home country.
This will tell you that despite the challenges we have, which the Ministry of Trade and Investment is working state governments to address, Nigeria still remains the best investment destination for genuine investors across the world.