Vice President Osinbajo foresees more investments from Diaspora, cites progress in ease of doing business reforms

The Buhari administration will continue to push its business reform agenda for which the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) was established, so as to create an enabling environment for more investments in the country, including from Nigerians abroad according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo spoke at the Presidential Villa 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, Dr. Abike Dabiri-Erewa and the Acting Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Lucky Orimisan Ayedatiwa.

He noted the contributions of Nigerians in the diaspora to the economy, especially with the remittances sent into the country and said, “when you look at the role the diaspora has played in our economy, the remittances are wonderful and that is huge, relatively speaking.”

The VP then stated that while it is clear there is rising interest to invest at home by Nigerians abroad, what would bring more investments from those in the diaspora, “is to create the environment that ensures it is 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 stressed the seriousness with which the administration is taking the Ease of Doing Business Initiative. He observed the challenges involved in working through a “bureaucracy that is accustomed to being more of an obstacle than a facilitator.”

But he added “we are breaking that – bureaucracy is everywhere and tends to be that way and after a while, regulators (of businesses) don’t recognize anymore that the reason they are there is to facilitate business. They are more policemen than facilitators.”

He also acknowledged that some regulators “are beginning to understand that the economy depends on how well they do their work and how easy it is 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 6 categories of licenses where, in some cases, you don’t pay up to a N100million. This is why we were able to get a lot of these FinTechs between 2015 and now, taking these cheaper licenses because a lot of them do financial intermediation on electronic platforms, doing payment processes. There are quite a few of them, but 5 of them are now considered unicorns, companies worth over $1billion.”

Reacting to the possibility of Venture Capitalists in the diaspora willing to invest in start-ups in Nigeria, Prof Osinbajo welcomed the idea.

His words: “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, Dr Chris Brooks, a Jamaican-Nigerian living in America expressed interest in investing in Nigeria. According to him, “there is 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.”

Responding the VP said, “I am excited that Dr. 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.”

In her own remarks, Dr Dabiri-Erewa stated 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, there is 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.