THE GRASS NOT ALWAYS GREENER

Nigeria 2017 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, on strategically aiming smarter government policy, taking advantage of greenfield opportunities, and the importance of women's empowerment.

Dr. Kayode Fayemi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the former Governor of Ekiti State, was born on February 9, 1965. He is a native of Isan-Ekiti in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State, Nigeria. He attended King’s College, University of London, where he received his doctorate in civil-military relations. His research and policy interests include: democratization, constitutionalism, security sector governance, and regionalism in a global context. Kayode Fayemi has served on numerous boards, including the Governing Board of the Open Society Justice Institute, Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, the African Security Sector Network, the Advisory Board of the Global Facilitation Network on Security Sector Reform, and the Management Culture Board of the ECOWAS Secretariat.

What is your assessment of the solid minerals sector contribution to the country's GDP and how do you expect it to evolve in the near future?

The mining sector is not a new sector; it is as old as Nigeria itself. Nigeria used to be one of the most prominent exporters of tin, columbite, and coal in the early 1900s. In the late 1950s to early 1960s, when we discovered hydrocarbons, mining fell down the priority list. It moved from around 4% of GDP pre-oil to what now passes for about 0.33% of GDP. The challenge for the new administration is to revive the sector and boost its contribution to Nigeria's economic development. Import substitution is critical to Nigeria, and the president's vision will enable us to achieve the twin objectives of job creation and revenue generation.

What strategies will you follow in the coming years to achieve import substitution in the mining sector?

Planning is central. One of the first things I did as Minister was to put in place a road map for the development of the sector, which lays out the short-, medium- and long-term objectives for the next 25 years. Mining does not yield quick results or immediate benefits; it requires long-term investment and foresight. If you look at the standard Fraser Index of Mining, Nigeria features on the lower rung of the ladder as a mining destination; however, when you look at the geology of the country and the rock formation, it sits almost exactly on the same plane as Ghana, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast, and Nigeria is bigger than all of those.

What types of incentives are provided for solid mineral investors?

In Nigeria, investors have a tax holiday for five years, allowing free importation of mining equipment, and 100% ownership of the mining operation; however, law enforcement is key. We are looking to ensure an autonomous regulatory agency that would be exclusively focused on managing the regulatory functions of the Ministry. We believe that there is a wide range of opportunities to incorporate informal mining into the economy, help these players create cooperatives, and give them access to low interest funding to improve their capacity to exploit what is on their ancestral land.

What are the competitive advantages of Nigeria as a destination for solid minerals investment?

Our competitive advantage is first that Nigeria is pristine and almost greenfield in mining terms. There are a lot of opportunities for exploring these green fields. We want to move from being a mineral nation to a mining nation. Furthermore, Nigeria is a good destination for beneficiation and processing of proven reserves in bitumen, granite, marble, lead, and zinc just to mention a few. So, investors interested in setting up smelters, cutting and polishing factories and mineral processing plants have a lot to gain. We aim to replicate our success story in limestone processing and cement production. We are prepared to support companies that can help add value to our mineral resources instead of just exporting the raw material.

You have been very involved in women's empowerment. What strategies should be followed to empower and unleash the potential of women in Africa?

As someone who worked on the policies and the manifesto of the party before the election, we see women as a trigger for change. If you give women more advantages, the multiplier effect on communities is higher, because women by nature think beyond themselves. Women are more grounded, which is why when you look at our social investment program it is more directed at women. When I was governor, the bulk of the people that benefited from our social security program where we used to give NGN5,000 to elderly citizens, the bulk of them were women. Women were running our food banks in the streets and distributing the materials that we have, which we are replicating under our social program now.