FG told to push into Africa to woo investors as AfCFTA beckons

L-R: Nabil Saleh, immediate past president of PHCCIMA, with Rwandan High Commissioner in Nigeria, Stanislas Kamanzi

* Investor urged Nigeria to emulate Rwanda

· As Rivers investors forum boss says local investors have not been wooed

By Ignatius Chukwu

The Federal Government has been advised to make haste and emulate Rwanda and other smart African countries to woo African investors and consolidate production structures as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) fast approaches.

Investors in Port Harcourt, Rives Stat and Niger Delta zone, who played host to a Rwandan delegation led by the High Commissioner in Nigeria, Stanislas Kamanzi, warned that whereas Rwanda and some other African countries are creating investment hubs and manufacturing zones to attack Africa, Nigeria seemed to be sleeping.

The president of Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF), Ibifiri Bobmanuel, a tractor manufacturing company CEO, told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the special networking meeting between the Rwanan team and the Ogoni Chamber of Commerce (OGCCIMA), that Rwanda has played the ball to Nigeria.

He said it is for the FG to take interest in the matters of investment and export as well as taking keen interest in the affairs of investors.

Cross section at the Rwanda-Ogoni business meet

Rwanda had told the Nigerian investors how they make foreign exchange available to investors, how they make power supply and other facilities available, how they register a new business in just six hours, and how they give seven years tax holiday to foreign investors.

Apparently touched by these measures, Bobmanuel some investors in Nigeria have shown interest in expanding to Rwanda. “I hope that the FG and their agencies could take a cue from such a gathering and see how they could get Nigeria’s ambassadors to begin to pull their weights 9by hosting investment summits in their host countries). If they do, they could get more direct foreign investment to Nigeria just like Rwanda has done today in Rivers State. That is a high point for me.”

In the areas of ease of doing business, he stated, Rwanda is doing very well, second in Africa. He said this is far above what Nigeria does. “In tax holidays, they have given us seven years to invest in Rwanda. You just cannot compare that with what we have here in Nigeria.

“I must state that investors are global citizens, high in demand around the world. It means that the investors we have in Rivers State are very vibrant for them to attract the interest of Randan government.”

He went on; “We feel very much appreciated. It gives a humbling feeling. We thus commend the Ogoni Chamber of Commerce for partnering with investors especially those in the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF). It is a huge opportunity for Rivers as a state and for Nigerian investors and indeed for the Rwandans. It is a huge opportunity for them.”

Rwandan High Commissioner, Stanislas Kamanzi, addressing business heads and investors in Port Harcourt

He urged the FG of Nigeria to do their bit now that Rwanda has kicked off the ball. He said the FG should also go to Rwanda and woo their own investors.

On access to foreign exchange promised by Rwanda, Bobmanuel wondered what the FG of Nigeria has offered to local investors before doing anything to foreign ones. “They are not accorded the needed respect or recognition that is needed. That is why we are where we are.

“The FG has vibrant investors in Nigeria and has not been able to recognize them enough. Rather, foreign countries are coming to woo them with all sorts of mouth-watering offers. It shows how the situation is in the country. We are calling on the FG to up their game.

“Well, we have election around the corner, we hope people will use their votes to elect the kind of government that will understand that it is the private sector that can lift Nigeria up than the public sector driven economic system that we practise in Nigeria.”

The president of OGCCIMA, Adoage Norteh, in his welcome remarks, said Ogoni has huge agricultural potentials apart from oil and gas assets. He said the meeting would identify areas of collaboration between Ogoni and Rwanda. $$