Chinese investors scramble for prospects in Nigeria
Foreign direct investment in Nigeria received a boost Thursday as at least nine memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed between Chinese investors and the Nigerian government and private sector at the Nigeria-China Investment Forum.
Over 300 Chinese businessmen besieged the China World Hotel, Beijing venue of the event which culminated in the signing of MoUs in the areas of power, agriculture, industrial zones, automobile, science and technology.
The high point of the meeting was the directive given by President Goodluck Jonathan that serious Chinese businessmen investing in Nigeria should be given up to 10 years visa. According to Jonathan, the various MOUs will lead to stronger economic ties between the two countries.
He noted that Nigeria-China relation had continued to improve over the years, stressing the historical similarities between the two countries.
He said as China is the leading country in its region, so is Nigeria striving to lead Africa in addition to being the most populous country in the African continent.
The president said Nigeria was currently strengthening investment and economic ties with China because of the exponential increase in the bilateral trade volume between the two countries within the last few years as well as China's involvement in the financing and construction of key infrastructural projects in Nigeria.
According to him, trade between the two countries to date, exceeded $13 billion per year as at 2012. He recalled that in 2002 business transactions between the two countries were barely $2 billion, but now almost one-third of all Chinese investments in West Africa are in Nigeria, noting Nigeria has become China's number one trading partner in the sub region.
Jonathan also recalled that to show how important China had become in the world economy and in its partnership with Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently converted significant part of its reserve from the dollar to the Chinese Yuan.
About 200 Chinese companies are doing business in Nigeria, but our country needs more direct investment. Our exchange rate has been stable over the years and foreigners have 100 per cent of their investment. We are most interested in agro and allied industry. That area is our priority. Government is willing to facilitate your business activities in Nigeria and we are willing to give you land and other things that will ease your investment in the country. We will also ensure that the Nigerian embassy here in China will give five to 10 years visa to big time investors. I assure you that your investment is safe in Nigeria,' Jonathan said.
Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, enthused Nigeria was the new beacon of investment in the world, quoting international financial organisations and economics that identified Africa and indeed Nigeria as the new frontier of economic development in the world.
Aganga said six of the world's fastest growing nations from 2001 to 2012 were in Africa and Nigeria was one of them with the country adjudged to be one of the seven fastest growing economy from 2011 to 2015.
He added that investment in Africa had risen to $3 trillion because the continent is the last frontier for investment.
'In 2012 Nigeria's economic growth was 6 per cent; by 2050 Nigeria will be one of the largest economies in the world.
Agriculture constitutes about 37 per cent of the nation's economy and the country's macro-economic environment is stable and strong for investment. Nigeria's economy has been upgraded; there is stability of the exchange rate and Nigeria's Stock Exchange is far better than the rest of the world, growing at 34.8 per cent. Nigeria is reform friendly because we know that our time has come,' Aganga said.
Aganga also spoke about the Centenary City, which the Federal Government is developing in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to mark the 100 years of amalgamation of North and South
Protectorate that gave rise to the creation of Nigeria as a country.
He invited investors to come and develop the city, disclosing that the company that was incorporated to take charge of the project would be taken to the Nigerian Stock Exchange in the next three to five years.
Many Chinese businessmen and top government officials spoke at the event, stressing the good relationship between the two countries.Also Chinese companies that are already doing business in Nigeria lauded the efforts of Nigerian government to encourage them to invest in the country.
Executive members of CCECC, China Africa Lekki Investment Limited, CRCC China Africa Construction Limited attested to the successful mileage their companies earned in doing business in Nigeria.
Others who spoke at the event included the Nigerian Ambassador to China, Aminu Wali; Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Works, Mike Onolemehme, amongst others.