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How NIPC is being positioned for greater relevance, by Umar

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All over the world, investment promotion agencies are key drivers of economic transformation. The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Mrs. Saratu Umar, in this interview with Business Editor, ADE OGIDAN, disclosed that the commission has set out a five-year strategic plan to effectively deliver on this mandate. Excerpts:

HAVING worked in the bank before your present appointment, how would you compare your responsibilities there with your current mandate?

The bank I worked for, NEXIM Bank, is a public sector institution as well. The mandate of the bank is to facilitate non-oil export and ensure diversification of the revenue base of the Nigerian economy. I spent about 22 years of my life there, starting as a pioneer staff, and rose through the ranks from different departments of the bank. The mandate of the bank is development-oriented. It is not too different from what we’re doing here. However, I have a bigger mandate now because we are not only restricted to the non-oil sector.

  Being appointed to head NIPC is a big deal, no doubt, but the challenges are enormous in terms of bridging investment gaps in a difficult environment. What plans do you have, going forward, to ensure that NIPC lives up to expectation?

   I assumed duty on 29 May 2014, and in my maiden speech, I said to the staff of the commission that my vision was to transform NIPC into an organisation that operates in line with global standards of excellence. We’re positioning NIPC to be a world-class investment promotion agency, comparable to the best anywhere in the world. We have mapped out clear strategies to drive this vision, so everything we’re doing right now is geared towards actually achieving that.

   Investment promotion is a big deal, yes, because every nation requires investment to develop. As you do know, Nigeria has huge potentials, natural resources and abundant human capital that we must leverage on for sustainable growth. To drive the right foundation, we must be a world class, very competent organisation, run to effectively deliver on its mandate and also meet the expectations of major stakeholders and the clients of the institution, who are mainly private sector people. This organisation is supposed to be a private sector organisation within the public service. So, we have embarked on a comprehensive transformation strategy to actually turn around the institution and take it to the desired level in line with the peculiarities of the Nigerian economy. 

What are some specific reforms you have put in place to achieve your vision?

 First, let’s talk about some key services that NIPC offers and then we can narrow down to specific reforms. NIPC is the agency saddled with the responsibility of domestic and overseas investment promotion; pre-investment facilitation services such as assisting investors with approvals/licences from the various government   agencies involved in investment facilitation in the country; and supporting existing investors in   analysing trade and investment policies of government, to enable them expand or diversify.

  We process and approve pioneer status incentives and provide information on other incentives.

  Of course there is also the post – investment services such as the aftercare services to existing investors and technical advice on improvement and expansion plans of existing businesses. There is also the policy advocacy and national competitiveness side to NIPC’s services. This involves providing and supporting initiatives aimed at improving Nigeria’s investment climate and advising on policies and laws that would improve the country’s global ranking.

In line with our mandate, we are also streamlining investment procedures and removing bottlenecks in the investment environment, among others.

   So, what we’re doing right now is repositioning NIPC for greater relevance through business process re-engineering and transformation, to provide effective and efficient services in a way and manner that meets the expectation of all stakeholders. We are repositioning NIPC to play a greater role in Investment Promotion for the development of Nigeria.

  Our vision is the gold standard of excellence on the continent and a world class investment promotion agency comparable to any in the world.

How do you plan to achieve this?

 The transformation we’ve embarked on leans on key pillars, including corporate accountability and institutional discipline; operational excellence and administrative effectiveness; robust and effective stakeholder communication and engagement; and of course, a structured, systematic and expanded national investment promotion strategy.

  We called in consultants, right from the diagnostics stage; and carrying the board, directors and staff along, we embarked on this journey. We’ve been having series of stakeholders’ engagement to bring everybody on the same page. We engaged the diplomatic community and held a retreat. We are collaborating with the organised private sector, investors support group, which includes banks and insurance firms, among others, and we are constantly on the strategy and execution board with ministries, departments and agencies, everyone in the same investment ecosystem, providing support services to investors.

  The last group we engaged was the media, to create a partnership between NIPC and the media community in the area of further improving the Nigerian brand and image as an investment destination of choice; and to get feedback on areas of challenges to investors in the course of doing business in Nigeria etc. We have a five-year strategy with 12 key deliverables. Everyone is working very hard to achieve our targets.

Can you list some of these targets?

 To be responsible for attracting into Nigeria at least 65 per cent of FDI inflows into Africa and 70 per cent of LDI inflows within Nigeria within five years; and effectively capture and account for about 70 per cent of all the investment activities in Nigeria within the next five years.

  We also want to ensure 100 per cent regulatory compliance; 100 per cent corporate governance and enterprise risk management compliance; and accuracy in tracking our technical, commercial, operational, economic, financial, investment climate and competitiveness performance.

  Let me also point out that we intend to achieve global and national investors/stakeholder satisfaction within five years; and improve our operational quality and efficiency by streamlining processes and minimising cost. Then we must also generate strong positive cash flows to sufficiently fund our operations, our capital investments and provide appropriate portfolio of investor services that show value for money.

 Talking about FDIs, where are we as a nation and why the apparent heavy focus?

  Foreign Direct Investment is acknowledged worldwide as the most useful and cheapest source of development finance because it creates employment, ensures transfer of technology, conserves foreign reserves, ensures availability of quality goods and services among others. For this reason, the competition for FDI has been very stiff, particularly in recent years due to globalisation brought about by technology. So, one of the strategies adopted by most countries to attract FDI is the establishment of Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs), with over 170 IPAs world-wide competing to attract often limited FDI to their various countries.

For instance, Nigeria needs over $2.8 trillion infrastructure funding over the next 30 years, whereas the estimated budgetary provision will be about $45 billion. This leaves a huge shortfall of about $2.4 trillion. We receive an average of $7.5 billion yearly in terms of FDI. If this is constant over the next 30 years, we would have only brought in $223 billion in FDI. If we compare this to the infrastructure investment requirement, we still have a huge gap. Therefore, a massive FDI inflow is required to service the implementation of the various strategic master plans across critical sectors of the Nigerian economy. We are putting plans in place to bridge this gap.

How do you intend to bridge this gap?

 We have initiated the investment promotion master plan, being designed to address sector-specific funding gaps. If the commission is to achieve its purpose, there is the need for effective collaboration with stakeholders for mutually beneficial purposes. In this regard, we are reviewing our strategy with respect to partnerships, image, investment targeting, client servicing, among others, in a coordinated fashion that facilitates steady and sustainable growth of FDI in Nigeria. We have also set up an investment coordination framework to improve the business climate, improve the ease of doing business and ensure policy consistency. This will help to enhance investors’ confidence in the Nigerian economy.

  We have streamlined our investment promotion drive through the promotion of country specific and sector-specific investment opportunities, and in line with Nigeria’s investment priorities. This is in addition to developing a structured and result-driven investment promotion calendar and certification of private organisations engaging in investment promotion activities.

Are there existing structures to ensure that your new strategies are coordinated across all the states of the federation?

 Yes, we have zonal offices. Part of the journey we embarked on is to ensure that these zonal offices become very effective so that wherever you find our zonal offices, services provided will still be in line with best practices and investors/stakeholders will be satisfied. You don’t have to come to Abuja to have all your investment needs catered for.

But how well do you think you can coordinate these plans across the sectors?

 We have already commenced the process. First, we must have a strong and solid foundation. Once we have that, every other thing will follow. As part of having the coordination framework, we have started signing MoUs with sister and relevant agencies. For instance, a few days ago, we signed an MoU with the Nigeria Export Promotion Council. This is part of the journey. They have identified specific areas they want to focus on in their strategic plan; and NIPC will seek investments to develop those specific areas. We are also in the process of signing similar MoUs with the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, the Industrial Training Fund and some others. This way, there won’t be disjointed efforts.

Let’s talk about the one-stop shop. Would you say that it is still serving its purpose?

 Yes, the one-stop shop is still functioning. What we’re trying to do now, however, is to make it a one-stop shop in the real sense of it. If an investor comes into NIPC and goes to the one stop shop, he should be able to get whatever he needs. But we still have instances where some of the approvals still need to go back to the parent agencies or ministries and that takes time. Going forward, we want investors to have access to key services in a timely manner. That is why we are relating with various agencies to see what kind of mandate can be given to officers on ground here that will facilitate timely delivery of services to investors. We’re making good progress in this regard. We are also working on online services, such that wherever you are in the world, you will be able to access the OSS service.

Do you have a platform for investors’ complaints?

 Basically, we have the Doing Business Committee, inaugurated by the President and chaired by the Honourable Minister of Industry, trade and Investment. NIPC is the secretariat. The committee addresses all these issues. Aside from this, in the NIPC, we also have a technical committee, made up of key agencies. If investors have specific concerns, they bring them to us and then we help to sort them out. There is also a committee, which deals with the day-to-day complaints/enquiries of investors.

What are you doing to enhance the capacity of staff in line with your renewed drive?

 Enhancing capacity will take a lot of training, culture and value orientation. But we don’t have a choice, that is why we have started in this direction. NIPC is one of the key agencies that will play central roles in economic diversification. We know that and we’re preparing our staff in line with global standards. With dedication, we will pull through.

Finally, what future do you see ahead for the NIPC in the next four years?

Very bright; I see a world-class investment promotion agency that is playing on the same level with first-rate IPAs around the world; that is contributing significantly to the economic growth and development of our dear country, Nigeria. For instance, the investment promotion agency in Singapore has played a very significant role in taking Singapore to where it is today. If you go to other parts of the world, it is the same story. We want to position NIPC to do the same thing in Nigeria. We have a beautiful story here in Nigeria, huge untapped potential.  And with the support of the Hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga; my board, staff, and indeed, all Nigerians, I’m positive we will get there.

  

 



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