As the 24th World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa kicks off this Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria is looking forward using the forum to showcase the opportunities in the country with the view of attracting investments into sectors of the economy not having adequate investment.
Minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who revealed this, said Nigeria has vast investment opportunities in agriculture, in manufacturing, particularly of consumer goods, in solid minerals as well as the entertainment industry, among others.
This is even as no fewer than 13 heads of states and over 1,000 delegates are expected to participate in the forum despite the perceived security challenges.
Speaking during the pre-event briefing yesterday in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala stated that there are currently more than 33 solid minerals available in commercial quantities in the country that have not yet been exploited.
"We have many companies that will come who are interested in all of these opportunities; they are waiting to talk to us. Don't forget that Nigeria has over 33 solid minerals that are not yet exploited and are in commercial quantities. So that is another sector that we are looking to showcase," she said.
According to her, "the meeting is in line with efforts to ensure that we have inclusive growth in the country.
She noted that Nigeria's economy constituted 76 per cent of the economy of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Okonjo-Iweala made the assertion a news conference on the World Economic Forum on Africa beginning in Abuja on Wednesday.
She said that aside from the ECOWAS economy, Nigeria also held 30 per cent of the economy in sub-Saharan Africa and 21 per cent of Africa's economy.
The minister said that it was, therefore, meaningful that the economic forum on Africa was being held in Nigeria. Okonjo-Iweala explained that the sessions at the forum would dwell on issues that would enunciate the best ways to ensure that jobs were created in Africa to help reduce inequality.
Other issues that the forum would focus on, she said, included skills creation and better service by public workers. She added that civil society groups and the private sector would fully participate in all the activities at the forum.
Okonjo-Iweala said that many initiatives which would be highly beneficial to Nigeria would be floated at the sessions of the forum. "There are specific things that will be of benefit to us as Nigeria for the forum being held here. "The first is that there are several initiatives; we have the Grow Africa Initiative which is for funding of agriculture in the continent.
"They have been able to raise about N7 billion investments and about half of it will be coming to Nigeria and also the healthcare initiative designed to strengthen access to health care which many of it will be coming to Nigeria. "A skills initiative is being launched by WEF and, within that, we are going to see a new initiative of Safe Schools being launched by the private sector in Nigeria.
"Aliko Dangote, Nduka Obiagbena together with Mr Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Education, would take charge of the session," she said.
She explained that "safe schools initiative" would be geared towards the North-East zone of the country and would be of great benefit to women and girls.
On security, the minister said that government had made much commitment to ensure that the abducted school girls at Chibok in Borno were rescued. She also assured all delegates to the economic forum of their safety, adding that the closure of public offices during the period of
the forum as announced by President Goodluck Jonathan was to ease traffic in the city.
"I can assure you that the delegates will be okay; the venue, hotels will be secured and the number of security personnel will be encouraging," she said.
On investment, she said that the nation's economy "with positive macro-economic indicators" had continued to draw the interest of local and foreign investors.
She said that various government initiatives in agriculture, manufacturing, housing, solid minerals and others would continue to grow investors' interest.
"Two foreign investors, UNILEVER and Bloomberg, have indicated interest to invest 150 million dollars and 250 million dollars, respectively.
"Blumberg wants to make Nigeria logistic hub for Africa," she said.
Also speaking at the briefing, Ms Elsie Kanza, director, Head of Africa, WEF, disclosed that the over 1,000- participant forum was one of the largest the forum had witnessed in the many years it had been hosted in different countries.
"We are expecting over a thousand participants from over 70 countries, more than half will come from African countries and many will come from the business communities, NGOs and religious groups," she said.
She listed some the countries whose heads would be participating as China, Republic of Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Rwanda, Kenya, Algeria, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Niger and the U.S.
She said that Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa has a great role to play in the region to ensure positive economic growth.
According to her, Africa by 2040 would have larger work force than China. Kanza said the major focus of the forum would be on how best to ensure that Africa with its positive growth rate could be inclusive.
She noted that 59 per cent of African youths were unemployed, adding that private sector participation would help to create job opportunities.
"The forum as you already have seen will focus on inclusive growth, how to get policies change and better business modules that can help create jobs.
"It will look at how to make citizens participate in making decision that can help change communities," she said.
On security, she said that WEF was concerned about the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok and prayed that they would be rescued soon. She noted that terrorism was a global trend that was not peculiar to Nigeria, adding that it had become a growing concern to the region too.
She assured that conversation on issues of insecurity in the region would also come up as one of the topics on the agenda at the meeting.
The federal government had assured all delegates that adequate security measures would be put in place during the forum. Public offices and schools had been mandated to close down from Wednesday, May 7, to Friday, May 9, to ease traffic during the forum in the capital territory.