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Interrogating investment promotion, practice

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This book is very significant in several respects: It is coming at a time when Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has become very critical to the economic development efforts of all nations. The competition for FDI has also become very fierce, with countries becoming more desperate and aggressive for FDI.

Secondly, the book is coming out at a time when, there is growing realisation that Nigeria is on the threshold of economic transformation and recovery, having exited economic recession and is poised to be on the path of steady growth and sustainable development, the quest to attract and retain beneficial FDI remains the panacea for addressing the challenges of infrastructure, unemployment and deepening poverty levels. Any effort to bring to the fore and place at the centre of national development agenda, the role of the investment promotion facilitation must be regarded as urgent, inevitable and unassailable.

It also presents a compelling reference material as a compendium of the fundamentals of investment promotion, facilitation and practice for building national stakeholder consensus on how Nigeria will position itself as the preferred destination for FDI. The book challenges everyone to understand, appreciate and imbibe the spirit and mindset of the science, art and practice of investment promotion and facilitation as everybody’s business.

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Put differently, the relevance, topicality and necessity of the book, makes it a compulsory reference material to policy makers and potentials investors having an eye on Nigeria and member of the academia.

Given the title of this book, A Case Study of Investment Promotion and Practice in Nigeria, it presupposes that there is a global theoretical framework on investment promotion and practice that is scientific, international and universal yet as adjusted in the book: “no designed menu of solutions that fits all countries and sectors of the economy” — Hence, a ‘case study’ of Nigeria’s experience with Investment promotion.

Central to the theme of book, is the role of Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) as the flagship and institutional framework for Investment coordination, promotion and facilitation in Nigeria. As a pioneer staff of the commission, the author, who describes himself as a ‘foot soldier’ with ‘two decades’ of hands-on-experience, is essentially what qualifies him to take on this onerous task of writing the book. This is even more compelling when it is considered that, “No Nigerian university is currently running Investment Promotion as a specialised course of study.”

It is against this background that one cannot but congratulate and commend Aza for his foresight, courage and tenacity of purpose in writing this book. The book presents a strong case for investment promotion, it catalogues the gains and giant strides Nigeria recorded as found expression in the activities of NIPC’s ‘cocktail of strategies,’ as Mr. Aza describes them.

The author sees the task of investment promotion in Nigeria as that of “promoting a country with an internationally perceived ‘negative’ reputation”. He gives kudos to NIPC for living up to expectation of attracting billons of dollars in FDI over the years in spite of what he describes as the “sub-optimal reputation” of the Country.

The book reminds its readers that NIPC came into being in 1999 as a result of the enabling legal framework; NIPC Act of 1995 presented in chapter one. The NIPC law, as reported in the book under review was a major reform initiative by Nigerian government which fully liberalized the Nigerian economy and opened it up for foreign investors. The law also protects foreign investments against nationalization and expropriation.

The book highlights some of the gains recorded by NIPC, over the years in addition to FDI inflow, to include some “consolidated reforms” such as the homegrown One-Stop Investment Centre (OSIC) NIPC Intelligence Investment Certification Programmes (NICPS) iGuides, NIPC Intelligence e-Newsletter and most recently, the OSIC Lab designed to provide solutions to problems of investors in the course of doing business in Nigeria.

It has 12 Chapters in 149 pages. The first chapter highlights the NIPC enabling law. The Secord chapter introduces the concept of FDI, its uses and loopholes. Chapter 3-7 contains details of NIPC strategies, programs and activities that showcase some useful hints, guides and “secrets” of the investment promotion that can easily be learnt, adopted and replicated by others.

Of critical significance is the seventh as well as the eightchapter, which gives an exposé of what I describe as the “economics of incentives” the chapter makes a case for investment incentive as both an investment promotion strategy and as an investment bargain chip. It is a tax holiday designed to attract and make up for the bottlenecks that investors face in the course of doing business in Nigeria. The incentive gives up to five years tax holiday to qualified companies based on set criterion. The book further reveals that the Pioneer Status incentive is being reformed, made more transparent, cost-effective and with measurable multiplier effects and benefits to the economy and citizenry.

Chapter 9 looks at activities of States as they are being coordinated and streamlined at the Federal level to create the necessary synergy and build nation-wide consensus on investment/investor handling. Afterall, every investment is ultimately located in a particular State, Local Government and Community.

Chapter 10 catalogues the successful journey of Nigeria’s leap jump of 35 places in the ‘World Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking’, which is attributable to the activities of the ‘Presidential Ease of Doing Business Committee (PEBEC)’ chaired by the Vice President, NIPC’s policy advocacy role and other initiatives-highlighted earlier. Very interesting aspect of the reforms has to do with the political will on the part of the Buhari Administration in the effective use of the Executive Orders to push through otherwise difficult reforms.

Chapter 11 reveals how NIPC partners with Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) in the implementation of Nigeria’s Medium-Term Development Plan (2017-2020). Particularly, the plans’ emphasis’ on mobilizing private capital to support and fund development plans.

The last chapter (12) contains some interesting thoughts by the author on why investors should invest in Nigeria; Just a way of reminding the reader of the advantages and ease with which business can be done in the reforming Nigeria. Afterall, the World Bank has ranked Nigeria as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world.

The book is an invaluable pioneering effort at putting together international best practice with full dose of practical local content; reflecting the unique and peculiar Nigerian’s investment climate. The book is well researched, properly articulated and contains direct and original sourced materials mainly; Government Policy Documents and backed up with actual reporting of investment promotion and facilitation as they unfold in Nigeria.

In conclusion, I cannot end this review, without adding my voice to the following policy options on the subject of attracting FDI in Nigeria; building national consensus on investment promotion and facilitation remains very critical; every MDA must institutionalise investment promotion as part of its official mandate and must receive training on investor handling — The curriculum of Civil Service College and Foreign Service Academy to include investment promotion /facilitation. This is in addition to introducing investment promotion/facilitation in the Curriculum of tertiary institutions as a matter of urgency and priority. Needless to state that, Mr. Aza’s book will be handy and a compulsory reference book.

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Furthermore, there’s urgent need to initiate reform in the regulatory regimes of MDAs. MDAs must deliberately and carefully balance their regulatory rules with investment facilitation mandate. Afterall, every regulatory agency has her legal framework, has a broad mandate to ensure the growth of their sectors. This reform can best be undertaking by reviewing the enabling laws and Policy Objectives of some of the MDAs some of which have become obsolete and opaque.

Finally, permit me to once again commend the author for this very rich, topical and relevant book that could not have come at better time than now that, the quest for rapid and sustainable development has become very urgent.

Aza effectively combines his good writing skills, command and use of English with elaborate graphics to drive home messages with such clarity and finesse to the understanding of even the non-professionals.

I have worked with Aza at NIPC between 2005 and 2016. I am not in the least surprised at his feat. His flair for writing is fully demonstrated in the quality and content book. Permit me to say that Aza has given Nigeria a worthy New Year gift. It is, therefore, with full sense of duty and responsibility that I recommend this book to every MDA, policy makers, lawmakers, university communities, organized private sector and anybody interested in doing business in Nigeria.

• Sakaba is Managing Partner/CEO, Good Ground Integrated Services Ltd.

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