How would you describe the transition from private to public sector, and what does your experience bring to NIPC?
A wealth of information sits on the public sector side, whereas the intellectual capital needed to exploit that information for commercial benefit lies within the private sector. Therefore, we need greater interface between the public and private sectors to fully unlock Nigeria's potential. As an investment banker, I was selling Nigerian companies for commercial benefit. In my role as Executive Secretary of NIPC, I sell Nigeria for altruistic reasons. The commercial perspective I bring to selling Nigeria is useful because investors first make commercial decisions, not altruistic decisions. Investors would have listened to me as an investment banker because I was a paid adviser. By comparison, as a government official, investors sometimes take the view, especially when it comes to reforms and improvements, that the government is simply saying things that will not necessarily be implemented. My focus now is selling the country as an investment destination. A material difference between the private and public sectors and I have tried to focus on the need to build on the NIPC's constitutional capacity and its ability to meet its mandate. This includes aligning NIPC's strategy based on the government's definition of the priority sectors for investments.
What role will NIPC play in the sustainable development of Nigeria?
NIPC has a vital role to play in driving Nigeria's economic diversity that is needed for the country's economic sustainability. Depending on oil alone is not sustainable from both an economic and job creation perspective. We need largely labor-intensive jobs, medium-skilled jobs, as well as technical and cerebral jobs for a wide proportion of the population to ensure we are creating skill sets across a broader spectrum of sectors. Part of what we are doing at NIPC is focusing our investment promotion strategy on ensuring we are fishing where the ducks are, that is, where we have the best prospects of attracting investors. It is not NIPC's job to define the areas where the government should invest; however, we play an active role in the government's definition of those sectors. NIPC has four mandates: projecting Nigeria's image as an attractive investment destination; attracting investors to come to Nigeria and invest here, whether they are local or foreign; providing quality after-care to those who have already invested in Nigeria as part our liaison role between governments and investors; and providing the government with guidance on policies, initiatives, and what is required to meet Nigeria's investment and industrialization objectives.
What measures are being taken to create a more enabling environment for international investors?
There is no better way to establish an enabling environment than having the president of the country take an interest in this. Our president established the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which is chaired by the vice president. The object of this council is to remove bottlenecks in doing business and to achieve a demonstrable improvement in Nigeria's doing business rankings. PEBEC has focused on working across ministries and government agencies to improve the conditions for businesses to operate in Nigeria. We hope Nigeria will see a 20-point improvement in the World Bank's doing business ranking by 2018, and ultimately reach the top 100.What message would you send to potential investors?
Nigeria is blessed with a wealth of physical resources, such as our minerals and our landmass, which offers great agricultural prospects. Add to this our 183 million people, which translates into considerable wealth. The country is considered by many to be a difficult place to do business, but nowhere in the world is risk-free investment. On a risk-adjusted basis, investors there will realize that Nigeria is incredibly compelling.