External reserves now $50b, says Okonjo-Iweala

By The Citizen

Nigeria's foreign reserve has hit about $50 billion, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala revealed  and declared Nigeria as Africa's current best investment destination

'With a foreign reserve of nearly 50 billion dollars, a stable exchange rate, strong banking sector, massive human and natural resources, Nigeria has indeed become one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world', a statement from the ministry quoted the minister as telling visiting British investors led by the Lord Mayor of the city of London, Mr. Roger Gifford, in Abuja, yesterday.

The British investors are in Nigeria to explore investment opportunities in the country.

Speaking on Friday on the country's economy, Okonjo-Iweala told the investors that Nigeria currently was the largest economy in West Africa, second largest in Africa with potential to become the largest African economy in the next five years.

The Coordinating Minister proudly told the investors that Nigeria has managed to bring her inflationary rate to a single digit of 8.6%.

In her explanation, she assured the investors that Nigeria is relatively enjoying a stable exchange rate, clean and strong banking sector.

Notwithstanding, the Minister of Finance told the investors that despite the huge success the country has recorded in the macro-economic sphere, there are other challenges staring at the nation which include unemployment, poor infrastructure, corruption, governance challenge and power. According to her, Nigeria is not relenting in tackling these challenges through several reforms in various sectors in order to rank among the eight strongest economies in the world, in no distant time.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, while detailing the steps so far taken in addressing these challenges said that through the Transformation Agenda of the present administration, Nigeria has tried to diversify the economy instead of depending on oil as the only source of income. In her words, Agriculture and Entertainment have been given enough priority owing to their capacity to create jobs for Nigeria teaming unemployed youths.

The Minister said that the government has made frantic efforts to reduce infrastructural problems that were inherited from past administrations in Nigeria. She said that the present government is partnering with China in order to revive the rail sector. Other areas that have received attention are construction and rehabilitation of roads which according to the Minister will boost easy movement of goods and services.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala assured the investors that the power problem would soon be a thing of the past as government has taken a bold step to privatise the power sector. She told the British visitors that the privatization had almost been completed.

On the aviation sector, the Minister informed the investors that there was serious re-modelling of the country's airports to meet with international standards.

As a follow up, the Mayor of London, Mr. Gifford asked the Minister of the time frame for the completion of the privatization of the power sector, the Minister assured him of a speedy completion as all bottlenecks to the privatization process had been removed.

On the question of Nigeria debt management, the Minister informed the investors that due to past experiences, Nigeria is now allergic to borrowing and has also reduced its domestic debt to 19% and external debt to 2%.