Despite seeing Nigeria as a viable investment destination, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, said on Wednesday that prospective investors are being held back by fears of possible difficulties in repatriating profits.
Senior Financial Sector Expert, Debt & Capital Market Instruments Division, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, IMF, Miriam Tamene, stated this during a visit of the IMF Team to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, in Abuja.
Mrs. Tamene, who met with the acting Director General of SEC, Abdul Zubair, in his office, traced some of the difficulties fueling the uncertainty to monetary policies that fuel inflationary trend and difficulty in accessing funds from the domestic market.
The IMF expert urged Nigeria's monetary and regulatory authorities, like the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and SEC, to evolve policies to bring down the rate of inflation in Nigeria and increase access to domestic funds.
Bringing stability in the inflation rate and guaranteeing access to cheap domestic funds for businesses, particularly to small and medium scale enterprises, would not only ensure the economy attained further growth in 2018, but also make Nigeria a more attractive investment destination, he said.
From average of 9.20 per cent in June 2015, the country's inflation rate climbed to an unprecedented 18.72 per cent in January 2017 after the economy relapsed into recession in the first quarter of the previous year.
Although since February 2017 the index dropped for the ninth consecutive time to 15.91 per cent in October, close watchers of the trend say the level remained too high to attract investors.
The recent World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report 2018 showed significant improvement in the aspect on getting credit, showing and improvement by 25 per cent points to six place on the ranking. Last year, getting credits ranked 44th.
But, Mrs. Tamene told the acting SEC DG during the visit that at the last IMF meetings, the Fund was surprised about the number of prospective investors that indicated interest to come to Nigeria to invest.
She however noted that many of the companies were still afraid they may not be able to retrieve their funds when they decide to exit.
"At the Annual meetings of IMF, we were pleasantly surprised when we saw many investors indicating interest to invest in the securities market in Nigeria," she said.
"A lot of people thought that Nigeria is still investors' destination. But, the main concerns most of them have has been the fear that they might not be able to take out their money anytime they want to, hence they are being very watchful.
"Investors are indeed interested in Nigeria. But, with difficulties they have in getting their money out recently, that confidence is not there yet. It has improved though. But, they are still watching. It is still so much fragile and not what they can take for granted just yet" she added.
Mr. Zubair said the future outlook of the market appeared good, as SEC had already rolled out several initiatives to grow the capital market and increase investors' confidence.
He said in the long term, more initiatives would be rolled out to ensure that Nigerian capital market remained one of the best performing in the world.
The IMF team is in Nigeria for consultations to get update on developments covering all the financial and other key sectors of the Nigerian economy. The report of their consultations is expected to be presented to the IMF Board in February 2018.