By Babajide Komolafe
Government officials and stakeholders in the financial services industry said that Nigeria’s economic growth rate, in spite of its huge infrastructure deficit, at a time of slow growth across developing economies, as well as the economic transformative agenda of the present government, especially its commitment to infrastructure development, makes are some of the reason why the country is the first choice for investment in Africa.
Speaking at the 2012 Standard Bank West Africa Investors’ Conference in Lagos on Tuesday, February 28, 2012, they said the prospects of the Nigerian economy as an investment haven have become brighter given the economic transformative agenda of the present government, especially its commitment to infrastructure development.
In his opening address, Atedo Peterside, Chairman, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, noted that Nigeria has entered a critical phase during which it will accelerate the realisation of its vast economic growth potential due to the firm mandate of President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as the sound pedigree of his economic management team.
“If we can achieve a 7.9 percent growth in 2011 with the existing low level infrastructure in an election year, you can imagine the growth level that will be achieved with the conclusion of the ambitious power sector reforms by the end of 2012. I am optimistic about Nigeria’s economic growth because emerging markets and frontier investors are increasingly looking at the growth stories in African economies with interest, and Nigeria is at the epicentre of this growth story,” he said.
Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Stock Exchange, who delivered the key note address at the conference, urged international fund managers to invest in Nigeria because of its market size, high growth rate, ongoing economic reforms and exceptional risk adjusted returns on investment.
According to him, the cyclical market downturn experienced by the Nigerian Stock Exchange provides an incredible opportunity for investors who desire a vehicle for long-term savings and access to capital, as well as efficient use of financial resources.
He expressed confidence that the equities market will recover its vibrancy and pave the way for Nigeria to become “the gateway to African markets”.
Arunma Oteh, Director General, Securities and Exchange Commission, reiterated optimism about Nigeria’s economic growth, saying the inherent challenges in the economy should be seen as opportunities to invest in the country.
“I cannot think of a better time to invest in Nigeria. The government is more focused and committed to development. Equally, World Bank economists are very optimistic about growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. GDP growth for the region is expected to increase to 5.8 percent in 2012, with Nigeria’s economy leading in growth,” Oteh said.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, outlined the focus of the Ministry to change agriculture to a business, and encourage private sector participation across the value chain. Represented by his Special Adviser, Mr Kola Masha, the minister restated the government’s drive towards making Nigeria recapture its place as a leading agricultural economy.
Nigeria, the minister said, was loosing in excess of US$10bn annually, by virtue of its loosing its 1970s market shares in oil palm production, groundnut and cocoa. He concluded by advising investors who would have liked to invest in Brazil 10 years ago to invest in Nigeria today.
The Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji, updated investors on the plans towards enhancing the power infrastructure of Nigeria in the near future.
He stated that at least four power plants will be commissioned this year, and also mentioned that world renowned energy players, like Global Energy (GE), have expressed their willingness to invest in the Nigeria power sector. He stated government’s commitment towards the implementation of the Road Map for Energy and sought the participation of the various investors in the power sector.
The Chief Executive Officer of Bharti Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Raja Sawroop, engaged with investors on the challenges and opportunities of investing in Nigeria, from the Airtel perspective. He was highly optimistic of the growth potentials of Nigeria’s economy.
More than 240 participants from local and international fund management companies, as well as blue chip West African companies from Nigeria and Ghana, participated in the 2012 Standard Bank West Africa Investors’ Conference, which was hosted by Stanbic IBTC for the third consecutive year.
The conference remains imperative as Africa becomes increasingly attractive to international investors seeking value in emerging and frontier markets. The conference provides local and international fund managers with the opportunity to explore potential investments in some of West Africa’s excellent, well-run and highly-rated companies. Investors also had one-on-one meetings with executive management of some of the companies.
Commenting on the Conference, Mr. Peter Leger, the portfolio manager of Coronation Fund Cape Town said ‘Stanbic IBTC has once again put together a world class conference. The quality of the engagements we had was awesome. Nigerian corporates are improving in areas of investor relations. The ministers and the capital market regulators were consistent in their views of the future of the market. We are pleased to have attended this conference!’
Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, a member of the Standard Bank Group, is a full service universal bank with a clear focus on three main business pillars – Corporate and Investment Banking, Personal and Business Banking and Wealth Management – which leverages on its industry expertise and international presence in 17 African countries (including Nigeria) and 21 countries outside Africa including Europe, Asia, Middle East, USA and Latin America to provide financial solutions to its clients.