By Ehi Ekhator
1. It is with great pleasure that I welcome our distinguished Council Members to the 15 th meeting of the Honorary International Investor Council (HIIC) in London, and in particular, His Excellency Mohammed Al Shaibani, the new member who is here with us for the first time.
2. His Excellency Al Shaibani is the Director General of the Ruler’s Court, Government of Dubai, and the CEO and Executive Director of the Investment Corporation of Dubai. We are glad to have him join us, and look forward to his contributions and insights at Council.
3. Dear Council Members, as we approach the end of 2013, it is only ideal that I begin this address first by thanking you all for your continued commitment to Nigeria. Our country is indeed honored to have friends and partners like you, with whom we can openly share ideas, and shape our agenda.
4. With every HIIC meeting I attend, I am always encouraged to see the quality of the debate, the frankness of the conversation, and the big things Nigeria can achieve. I am also sure you likewise are inspired by the vast potential and opportunities within our great country. Indeed at the HIIC, I can sincerely say that we are all in very good company. The investment of your time and effort in driving the HIIC is recognized, and on behalf of the Nigerian people, I say thank you.
5. This 15 th meeting builds on the last conversation we had in Abuja and begins to address the fundamental issues constraining competitiveness and investment in Nigeria. Competitiveness ultimately drives profitability, which is what investors are seeking worldwide. To be competitive, we must address long standing issues, and introduce bold and courageous reforms, regardless of short term political pressures. This is why my government has remained steadfast in making Nigeria the preferred location for investors to do business, because it is our only pathway to create jobs, generate wealth, and guarantee our security.
6. In building a truly competitive environment for business, we are addressing the fundamental issues such as internal security and power supply head-on. For the first time in Nigeria’s 53 year history, we have successfully privatized the electric power industry.
7. We are bringing capital, technology, and operational excellence into the sector. As a result, 11 distribution companies, and four (4) generation companies have been privatized, realising over US$3 billion for Government. For Council’s information the assets were finally handed over on 1 st November, 2013.
8. I am delighted to inform you that investors are responding positively to the opportunities in the sector and we expect to see significant investments in the sector and across the value chain going forward. Ladies and Gentlemen, resolving the power sector alone, completely changes the paradigm on doing business in Nigeria, and we are satisfied with the progress made.
9. Equally, although challenges remain, we are investing in the requisite security infrastructure and intelligence network that will enable us deal more effectively with the new threats we face which can and do hamper investor confidence in our economy.
10. In ensuring that the environment is suitable for investment, we will also continue to intensify the fight against corruption. We are indeed happy that the private sector has begun complementing our strong desire to tackle all forms of rent seeking tendencies. The “Clean Business Nigeria Today” initiative coming from the meetings of the Council is a very good example.
11. I urge the Council Members and key functionaries of Government to meaningfully participate in the discussions towards our desire to transform the Nigerian economy to one of the world’s largest economies by the year 2020.
12. I also use this opportunity to inform Council that Nigeria will be hosting the World Economic Forum
on Africa, between the 7 th and 9 th of May 2014. Our hosting this event is yet again a strong sign of Nigeria’s central economic and political role on the continent. The forthcoming World Economic Forum will be used to shape matters of inclusive growth on the continent, and I invite all members of Council to join us in Abuja in May 2014.
13. Dear Council members, in the year 2013, I can sincerely say that Nigeria has attained significant momentum on the drive to attract new investors into the country, and also to encourage existing investors within the country to expand. In 2014, we must not lose this momentum, but rather broaden our interventions to address other difficult issues like the high cost of financing in the country, and the dearth of adequate skills.
14. The HIIC’s core mandate of providing advice to attract investments into the country, and making Nigeria more competitive in the global economy is therefore as critical today, as it was almost 10 years ago when it was initially formed.
15. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you once again for your contributions to the growth and development of our great nation, and I very much look forward to sharing ideas with you all during this event.