I am delighted to be present here today at the 2nd edition of the United States–Africa Business Forum.
I wish to thank the United States Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies for organizing this event and for giving me this opportunity to address this august gathering of Political and Business Leaders from the United States of America (USA), Africa and other regions of the World.
I believe all of us will take advantage of this Forum to establish and strengthen business relationships; share valuable experience; and collaborate for mutual benefits.
The United States has historically been one of Nigeria’s top trading partners; for decades, the US was the biggest importer of Nigeria’s crude oil.
In the last two years, however, the sharp decline in US imports of our crude, on account of rising domestic production of Shale, has altered the trade balance between our two countries.
But it has also thrown up opportunities for Nigeria to increase its non-oil exports – especially in agricultural products – to the U.S.
Today, Nigeria enjoys a mutually beneficial trade and investment relations with USA. This relationship has culminated in massive inflow of Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria.
There are several US Companies doing business in Nigeria, including Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Procter and Gamble, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Company, British-American Tobacco Company, UPS Courier Company, BCG, Johnson Wax Nigeria Ltd, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, to name a few.
These are no doubt challenging times for the Nigerian economy. But let me use this opportunity to boldly affirm our conviction that there is no crisis without an accompanying opportunity.
In our case, we see Nigeria’s ongoing economic challenges – occasioned mainly by the fall in oil prices – as an opportunity to set the economy firmly on the path of true diversification, sustainable economic growth, and shared prosperity.
Since the inception of my Administration in 2015, all efforts have been aimed at ensuring that all Nigerians enjoy rising standards of living.
We campaigned for and came into office on the back of three fundamental issues: One, Securing Nigeria from terrorism and banditry, Two, Fighting corruption and ensuring that public funds work for the public good, and Three, Revamping an economy that was dangerously dependent on crude oil, and afflicted by rising inequality and jobless growth. We are pleased to note that our efforts are yielding fruit.
(On Security) – Hundreds of communities and thousands of people have been liberated from the clutches of the terrorists, under our watch, and are now getting a chance to, with support from the government and the international community, rebuild their homes and their lives.
(On corruption) – Our quest is to ensure, through a combination of institution-building and judicial efforts, that public funds work for the public good, and that persons responsible for overseeing the use of these funds come to this task with the utmost sense of transparency and accountability.
Earlier this year we signed up to the Open Government Partnership, a clear demonstration of our commitment to a radical departure from a past characterized by large-scale state-enabled corruption.
Let me also assure that we will continue to strengthen Government institutions established to address investors’ concerns.
(On the economy) – We are weaning ourselves from a historical dependence on crude oil, diversifying our economy, and putting it on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth.
To this end, we have embarked on policies aimed at establishing an open, rules-based and market-oriented economy.
We will continue to actively engage with the private sector at the highest levels to listen to your concerns and to assure you of our commitment to creating enabling policies in which your businesses can thrive.
Indeed, we have constituted a Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which is working on a wide range of business environment reforms, ranging from making our planned visa-on-arrival regime a reality, to ports reform, to improving the speed and efficiency of land titling and business registration.
We aspire to make Nigeria one of the most attractive places to do business.
Let me now focus on the priority investment sectors for our administration: Infrastructure, Industry, Agriculture, Mining and the Digital Economy.
Infrastructure: For far too long Nigeria has under-invested in the critical infrastructure necessary for a modern economy. Now, that is set to change.
We are working hard to bridge an electricity deficit of several thousands of megawatts, which will require substantial private sector investment, especially in Transmission.
Our railway system is being opened up after decades of a government monopoly that has hindered the needed private sector investment.
We are well on course with a concessioning deal that will see General Electric take over hundreds of kilometers of existing rail assets, and invest billions of dollars to upgrade assets and services.
On Industry, there is the Nigerian Industrial Plan that is being implemented.
The implementation is directed at interventions to improve productivity and output in five industry groups, namely: agri-business and agro-allied; solid minerals and metals; oil and gas; construction, and light manufacturing.
Currently, investments and partnerships are being directed to leather and leather products; sugar; palm oil processing; food processing, specifically tomato and fruit processing.