By Bassey Udo
The rising interest by Nigerians abroad to invest back home is as a result of Buhari administration’s ease of doing business reforms, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said.
The Vice President said the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) 2021 spearheaded the reforms to create an enabling environment for more investments in the country, including from Nigerians abroad.
Osinbajo spoke in Abuja on Wednesday while receiving some of the participants at the ongoing Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit (NDIS) led by Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Acting Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Orimisan Ayedatiwa.
The contributions of Nigerians in the diaspora to the economy, Osinbajo said, come mostly from remittances sent into the country.
“When you look at the role the diaspora has played in our economy, the remittances are wonderful and that is huge, relatively speaking,” he said.
The VP said while it was clear there was rising interest to invest at home by Nigerians abroad, what would bring more investments from those in the diaspora was to create the environment that ensures it was easy for them to invest.
“It is now obvious that there are incredible opportunities that can be taken advantage of by our folks in the diaspora. They can see and recognize those advantages,” the VP said.
He stressed the seriousness with which the administration was taking the Ease of Doing Business Initiative, adding that the challenges involved in working through a “bureaucracy that is accustomed to being more of an obstacle than a facilitator.”
However, he said the country was breaking the obstacle created by the bureaucracy everywhere, adding that after a while, regulators (of businesses) would not recognize any more that the reason they were there was to facilitate business, as they are more policemen than facilitators.
The VP acknowledged that some regulators were beginning to understand that the economy depended on how well they do their work and how easy it was for people to come through their gates and leave their gates with some success.
“There is a great deal more attention being paid to achieving something and we have had discussions with several of the regulators, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). We have seen substantial changes in their approach and attitude.
“For example, if you recall, if you were doing any sort of banking business, you need to take a banking license of N25billion. CBN in response to some of the work being done agreed that for many financial intermediary services, there was a need to create other licenses that were not that expensive.
“We have about six categories of licenses where, in some cases, you don’t pay up to a N100 million. This is why we were able to get a lot of these FinTechs between 2015 and now, taking these cheaper because a lot of them do financial intermediation on electronic platforms, doing payment processes. There are quite a few of them, but five of them are now considered unicorns companies worth over $1billion.”
On the possibility of Venture Capitalists in the diaspora willing to invest in start-ups in Nigeria, Osinbajo welcomed the idea, pointing out that “the interesting thing is that there are a lot of Venture Capital firms involved, investors from different parts of the world investing in them (FinTechs and other businesses).
“I think that there is a lot to be said about how we make the environment easier for investors to come and not just bringing them in and leaving them to sort themselves out, but the handholding efforts (by NIDCOM) are so crucial so that those who want to invest don’t have too many obstacles, but we know that we are in with them for the long haul.”
A member of the delegation, Chris Brooks, a Jamaican-Nigerian living in America, expressed interest in investing in Nigeria.
Brooks said there was growing excitement and energy in the Nigerian diaspora, especially in the United States.
“We have come to the conclusion that the best hope we have for black people globally is Nigeria. So, we intend to make investments in Nigeria and partner deeply with Nigeria.
“I work with a wide variety of Venture Capital Firms led by black people, to advance the cause of black people globally. I intend to bring other Venture Capital leaders who control an enormous amount of assets to have conversations with Nigeria about emerging opportunities for investments,” he said.
The VP expressed excitement to hear that Brooks has a consortium of possible Venture Capital Firms and fund managers prepared to put some of their resources in Nigeria.
“I hope that we are able to actually get them to invest and we will do whatever we can to support that effort and support what is already going on. If you need a couple of doors open, we will do our best to ensure that we help,” he said.
In her remarks, Dabiri-Erewa said that through the intervention of the Nigeria Diaspora Investment Summit, “in the last 5 years, we have had investments, particularly in the area of Agriculture, Medicare, ICT and Education.
For those in the diaspora, she said there was passion and interest to invest in Nigeria and the ease of doing business has improved tremendously under the leadership of the Vice President.
The VP commended NiDCOM and the passion of its Chairman, noting that she has brought a lot of zeal to the work of the Commission.
Others at the meeting included a delegation from Ondo and Ekiti States, who are also attending the summit, and officials from NIDS and NIDCOM.