The opportunity to diversify the economy, invest in critical sectors and stimulate growth of the SME space to put the country on the path to sustainable development, this was the position canvassed by stakeholders at the Standard Bank West Africa Investors’ Conference, now in its 7th edition which had the theme, ‘Unlocking Nigeria’s potential…growth through diversification.’
Nigeria’s economy has been at crossroads in the wake of the slide in commodity prices, a situation that has triggered a growing debate on how best to uplift the economy. The debate has centered on achieving a more balanced, broad-based and diversified growth path that is not subject to fluctuations in the global oil market.
Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, Mr. Atedo Peterside, in his welcome address, stated that the theme was partly derived from the government’s agenda for broadening revenue sources against the backdrop of lower commodity prices. Diversification of the economy has become imperative considering the growing needs of the populace for new jobs and other welfare packages that will help reduce poverty levels, he said, adding that concerted action is required to drive sustainable economic growth.
On Nigeria’s much debated foreign exchange regime, Peterside said the “the point to realize is that “economic diversification can only take place meaningfully if new capital investment activity takes place to take maximum advantage of increased domestic competitiveness.”
In his presentation, Dr. Yemi Kale, Statistician General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer, National Bureau of Statistics, frowned at the practice of describing the structure of the Nigerian economy in terms of government revenue source. “True, government revenue is dependent on the oil and gas sector but the economic structure of Nigeria is not solely dependent on oil and gas, albeit an important part. If you look at the recent revised national accounts, it is evident that oil value added has been negative for years now, and in fact it is the non-oil sector that had sustained the economy. This is not to say the oil sector doesn’t have indirect impact on the non-oil economy.”
On diversification, Kale stated that Nigeria’s economy “is relatively diversified. However, almost half of the economy is informal and out of the (fiscal) control of government. Policies aimed at drawing in this huge informal sector into the system must necessarily be deployed at this time if we are to diversify our sources of revenue and achieve a more sustainable structural transformation of our economy.”
Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, Mrs. Sola David-Borha, in her closing remarks, reiterated the need for the public and private sectors to work together to tackle the economic headwinds, especially with worrying predictions of imminent job losses and higher unemployment numbers. The need for such partnership underpins the organization of the annual investors’ conference to avail both local and international investors a platform to glean decisive information with which they can make informed investment decisions.
The event attracted a long list of top government and private sector functionaries, regulators and policy makers. Among those that graced the event were Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, Director General, Debt Management Office; Executive Chairman, Phillips Consulting Group, Mr. Foluso Phillips; Faculty member, Lagos Business School, Dr. Doyin Salami; and Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, NASD Plc, Mr. Bola Ajomale, among others.
Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, a member of Standard Bank Group, is a full service financial services group with a clear focus on three main business pillars – Corporate and Investment Banking, Personal and Business Banking and Wealth Management.
Standard Bank Group is the largest African bank by assets and earnings. It is rooted in Africa with strategic representation in 20 countries on the African continent, including South Africa. Standard Bank has been in operation for 153 years and is focused on building first-class, on-the-ground financial services organisations in chosen countries in Africa and connecting other selected emerging markets to Africa and to each other, applying sector expertise, particularly in natural resources, globally.