The new executive secretary and chief executive of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC), Uju Aisha Hassan-Baba, has expressed optimism about the country's prospects, but remains aware of the challenges facing the developing economy.  One of the biggest tasks for country officials is diversifying the economy away from the oil sector. “We’ve created a strategic framework that will take Nigeria beyond oil. This includes creating a framework to deal with the investment climate by prioritising certain sectors and geographies, as well as looking at financing the value chain,” said Ms Hassan-Baba.

The NIPC is focusing on the agriculture, agri-business, manufacturing, energy and automotive sectors. “Part of our strategic plan is to attract the mega-projects – the game changers. Non-oil Nigeria needs the game changers,” she said. The council is also focusing on attracting specific investments to specific geographies, Ms Hassan-Baba said, “If we can bring in investments to these sectors and geographies it will help Nigeria to cut down on its import bill and reduce the foreign exchange costs associated with importing goods that can easily be produced here.”

Advertisement

Ms Hassan-Baba is also conscious of the need to provide support and aftercare to investors in the country, and is also keen to maintain relations with traditional trading partners. “China is very big in terms of investments, and we’re going to see more. The US is a traditional ally, so we hope to be able to facilitate more through the African Growth and Opportunity Act to grow investment. South Africa is another traditional partner, and has quite a lot of franchise investments in Nigeria. However, we need to come up with a framework that protects Nigerian investors in franchise opportunities. The UK is another country where we hope to strengthen trade and investment.”

Ms Hassan-Baba’s arrival at the NIPC comes at a time when security, terrorism, corruption and democracy are watchwords for the country. “Security and terrorism are international – no country can say it’s beyond this problem,” she said. “Big international investors such as Lafarge are here. They look beyond the security problem.”

On the question of corruption, Ms Hassan-Baba, who is a former director of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, said: “We need to recognise that corruption diminishes the investment environment. We need anti-corruption agents to remove corruption. We have to strengthen our agencies so that we can fight corruption in all its manifestations.”

Ms Hassan-Baba said that Nigeria’s transition from one democratically elected government to another has given her cause for optimism. “Since this year’s elections, we have had goodwill and this is encouraging investors,” she said. “International perception is changing. The new government is continuing the anti-corruption policy of the last administration, and there has been a continuation of financial and fiscal policies, which gives investors the assurance that we are on the right track.”