Leaders from 198 nations recently convened in New York for the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), focusing on the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With only seven years remaining in the 15-year timeline to achieve these globally agreed objectives, which encompass ending poverty, ensuring quality education, promoting good health, and providing access to affordable and clean water, world leaders acknowledged that they are lagging behind the 2030 targets.
However, President Bola Tinubu utilized the global meeting as an opportunity to promote foreign direct investment. As part of this strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with First Bank Plc, organized an investment luncheon as one of the sideline events.
Discussing the significance of the event, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, the Managing Director of FBN, highlighted the opportune moment to attract investors to Nigeria. Here are excerpts from his remarks:
Question: What is the purpose of this event, and what outcomes do you aim to achieve?
Dr. Adesola Adeduntan: Thank you! The event is one of the strategic sideline events that the Nigerian government organized as an integral part of our engagements with the international community during this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). As you are aware, we have a new president, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, who has embarked on what he has rightfully described as economic diplomacy, aiming to attract investors to our country and accelerate growth.
The president has articulated significant GDP growth as one of his administration’s objectives as part of his 8-point agenda. Thus, this event is our contribution, working alongside entities like Bank of America, to bring together Nigerian investors, Nigerians in the diaspora, and the president to discuss critical policy changes needed to make Nigeria the preferred destination for foreign direct investment. Today’s turnout was excellent, the contributions were substantial, and we all left feeling very positive about the inflow of foreign direct investment into our country.
Question: How do you see the role of the banking sector in facilitating investments and economic development in the country?
Dr. Adesola Adeduntan: As the CEO of First Bank, an institution with over 130 years of history, there’s no better entity positioned to discuss investments in Nigeria and the continent than us. We showcased investment opportunities in Nigeria, provided insights into navigating potential obstacles, and emphasized the rewards awaiting those who invest in Nigeria.
We cited examples of foreign investors in our country who achieved break-even, demonstrating the favorable environment for investment. With a vast domestic market of over 200 million people and Nigeria anchoring the West and Central Africa region, Nigeria is the right choice for investors. We also highlighted that investing in Nigeria means access to the entire African market, especially considering Africa’s expected population growth, potentially surpassing China’s in a decade.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s focus on creating an enabling environment for foreign direct investors aligns perfectly with this opportunity. Those who invest in our country now will reap significant rewards in five years.
Question: What specific incentives do you offer potential investors during the event?
Dr. Adesola Adeduntan: Our role is to showcase possibilities and available opportunities. Once these transactions and investments begin taking shape, we can step in as providers of financial solutions for those deals. Today, we emphasized the need for the government to identify the top 5 or top 10 priority projects that require financing.
For instance, projects like Brass LNG and reviving dormant steel industries such as Ajaokuta and Delta Steel Company represent significant investments that can spur growth. Infrastructure development, a key focus for the president, relies on steel and cement. The government should prioritize these projects to attract investors.
With the recent visit of President Tinubu to India, the commitment from investors like Indorama to invest an additional $8 billion is a testament to their seriousness. If we can attract 10 such investors, each committing billions of dollars, it will unlock substantial value, drive inclusive economic growth, and help alleviate poverty.
Nigerian banks have the financial strength and experience to support such large transactions, and the sector has matured significantly. We also possess the expertise to lead fundraising efforts for these transactions, which will undoubtedly spur growth. The future looks promising for our country, thanks to President Tinubu’s economic leadership, and I am optimistic about what lies ahead.