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Nigeria’s Diaspora: a key strength in attracting FDI

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The Nigerian Diaspora can play a key role in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the country’s Free Zones in the post-Covid era. This assertion was made by Dr Badewa Adejugbe-Williams, the Coordinator of the Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit at a webinar held Thursday.

Speaking on the topic, “Attracting increased FDI to Nigeria’s Free Zones in the Post-Covid19 era: the role of Nigerians in Diaspora”, Dr Adejugbe-Williams said that beyond remittances (valued at $25.6billion in 2018), Nigerians in Diaspora can help in marketing the vast untapped opportunities in the country to foreign investors, particular those they have come to know on a personal level.

“In my experience living over three decades in America, I have noticed that many potential investors are already aware of the numerous untapped opportunities in Nigeria but just need that extra assurance of a trusted friend, colleague or neighbour from Nigeria before the take that initial step. This is an important strategic role which is undertaken as part of our patriotic duty but which should be recognised as a contribution.”

As someone who herself returned from California, USA, to establish a thriving special education institution, Dr Adejugbe-Williams speaks from experience when she says: “Diasporans can and do promote trade, create businesses, spur entrepreneurship, and transfer back new knowledge and skills through “brain gain.

Adejugbe-Williams stated further that “Targeting the Diaspora is an effective and sustainable strategy for attracting investment into an emerging economy like Nigeria, hence the creation of the Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit (NDIS) an annual event envisioning a Nigerian economy promoted through Diaspora investors and partners.”

 She explained that the NDIS works in collaboration with relevant government ministries, agencies and departments like the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, and Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, to unlock investment opportunities in Nigeria, to attract Diaspora investments, thereby underscoring the strategic importance of the Diaspora as a prime source of FDI.

According to Dr Adejugbe-Williams, the NDIS which is only in its third year, has made a significant impact in galvanising stakeholders to turn their attention to the Nigerian Diaspora community for more useful engagement as potential investors.

“The NDIS has taken off very well. The inaugural version held in November 2018, themed “Activating Diaspora Investments for a Diversified Economy”, attracted over 300 investors seeking opportunities; the 2019 edition themed “Leveraging Diaspora Resource for Economic Growth” saw that number nearly double at 585. And this year, discussions are ongoing as to whether, in view of the pandemic, there should be one and what form it should take. So, watch this space!”

On the impact of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) reforms on the attractiveness of Nigeria as a viable investment destination, Dr Adejugbe-Williams said the word within the Diaspora community is that the initiative has made a positive difference to the perception of Nigeria as an attractive investment destination.

“Without a doubt, the perception is that the Ease of Doing Business has made Nigeria a robust destination for smart investors, climbing an unprecedented 39 places on the Word Bank Doing Business Index and twice being name one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world.”

Concluding, Dr Adejugbe-Williams, noted that despite the challenges, Nigeria has a lot to propel it towards economic survival and growth, but not without exploiting her strengths, particularly her Diaspora.

“Covid19 presents an opportunity to make necessary changes; reset the system, utilise our Diaspora as a major strength and key resource, involving them, giving them an active role and cleaning up the politics to make it corruption-free and attractive both to top Diaspora talent and investors.”

Speaking earlier, the Ag Managing Director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA, Mr Bitrus Dawuk, said that Covid19 has presented both challenges and opportunities for Free Zones world-wide, challenged the manufacturing value addition of FZ enterprises and disrupted the global supply chain. He announced that NEPZA had identified two major opportunities presented by Covid19. The first is in inward production, involving a change in sectorial focus in favour of agro-allied and healthcare. The second in the global and regional value and supply chain, involving manufacturing and supply of capital goods to other African countries. Dawuk outlined the agency’s plans for cashing in on these opportunities as well for repositioning the agency for maximum investor-attraction in the ultra-competitive post-Covid19 era.

Other speakers at the webinar include Mr Bitrus Dawuk, Ag MD, Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA; Prof Ken Ife, consultant to the Central Bank of Nigeria on Policy Advocacy and lead consultant to ECOWAS Commission on private sector development and trade policy; Dr Antony Laurent, UK-based international trade and investment expert and entrepreneur. Others are Dr Uche Onwuamaegbu Washington-based international attorney, arbitrator and former senior counsel, ICSID-World Bank; Mr Sushil Sharma, India-based, global business strategy consultant and best-selling author and Swapnesh Sebastian, Dubai-based international business and management consultant and trainer.

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