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‘Agric, telecoms are crucial to Nigeria’s unfolding economic revolution’

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Valentin

Chief Executive Officer of The Business Year, Ayşe Valentin, in this interview discusses the latest research on Nigeria, and the role emerging sectors will play in the emerging economic transformation, among other issues.

What is the importance of Nigeria to The Business Year’s global portfolio?
Nigeria is a key market for The Business Year (TBY). Since forging a partnership with the Presidency in 2014 and sending our first team in the same year, we have consistently been on the ground, establishing unparalleled partnerships with key players across many sectors and producing some of our most-read editions globally. In fact, The Business Year: Nigeria 2020 was the second-most requested edition among all our 2020 publications. This is understandable, with Africa attracting increasing attention and with Nigeria being the continent’s largest economy.

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How has TBY evolved in Nigeria over the years?
When we entered the market in 2014, our main product was our print publication – basically, a business encyclopedia containing key investment and business information gathered from the drivers of the economy.

Today, our publications are still our signature, but as the business world evolves, so do we. We embarked on a digitalisation journey, launching on several online platforms and diversifying our content for a wider readership. We enhanced and exponentially grew our website, pushing weekly content such as analysis and focus articles on topics of interest across the world’s most dynamic economies and have made all of our editions available digitally, too.

We established trusted partnerships with key business information platforms, including Bloomberg Terminal, Dow Jones Factiva, Refinitiv Eikon, and FactSet, whose users have access to all of TBY’s publications. In recent years, we also introduced our acclaimed Global Roundtable Series, a succession of high-profile roundtable events gathering leaders from the sector in question. The “Gas for Development” roundtable we hosted at Eko Hotel, in Lagos, in 2018 saw the participation of high-caliber panelists such as Seplat’s former CEO Austin Avuru, Nigeria LNG’s CEO Tony Attah, Greenville’s MD Eddie van der Broeke, and then-Minister of Petroleum Ibe Kachikwu, represented by his Special Adviser.

The audience was equally distinguished, comprising C-level executives across the oil sector and beyond, due to the highly relevant nature of the topics discussed. And we didn’t let COVID-19 slow us down. Unable to arrange in-person events, we took the conversation online through a series of digital roundtables and exclusive 1-on-1 interviews, engaging our audience in a new and exciting way. Lastly, our recently launched digital special reports, which we compile on specific sectors, topics, or geographies, have been extremely well received within the business community across the countries we operate in, and we are looking forward to shining the spotlight on some of Nigeria’s most intriguing sectors in the coming months and years. In short, as a media group, we have embraced digitalization to make our content more digestible, easily accessible, and shared, and we have introduced content formats and partnerships to respond to our highly sophisticated audience of business leaders and business enthusiasts.

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What value do you bring to Nigeria through your operations here?
Our goal, globally, is to document the myriad of business opportunities available in often underreported emerging markets. And we do so through the voices of the leaders at the forefront of the business scene. Our key signature feature is the caliber of our network and our interviewees – we interview the top decision makers across the government and the private sector, which includes multinationals, large indigenous companies, as well as the smaller businesses that are so often the engine of the economy. And so, in essence, our readers have access to the voices and opinions of nearly 200 executives, all gathered in one place, sharing crucial information from their first-hand insights into doing business in their respective sectors.

Our events are another great example of how we provide a platform for highly regarded VIP business leaders to be brought together to discuss and address issues of national interest. In Nigeria, in particular, an objective that we place at the core of our operations is to change the narrative about the country and to showcase the multitude of attractive investment and economic opportunities as well as the untold story of the country, whether from a business, tourism, or even an entertainment perspective. Our on-ground teams travel to different states to explore the untapped potential that each has to offer, and cover topics from fashion to start-ups, lifestyle, and music to portray a positive image of Nigeria’s growing soft power.

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Ultimately, we hope that our Nigerian content can show the challenges as immense opportunities for local and international investors, and more importantly show what Nigeria truly is an extremely resilient country with an incredibly rich and diverse culture, hard-working and highly creative and entrepreneurial people, vast natural resources, rewarding economic opportunities, and breathtaking landscapes.

What will be the focus of The Business Year’s research in Nigeria in 2021, and what are you bringing compared to previous years?
This year and 2022 will be pivotal years for Nigeria. The country surprised the world when it exited its recession in 4Q 2020 after the IMF had predicted the worst recession in 40 years. Our research will focus on showcasing this strength, particularly as it stemmed from growth in the non-oil sector – namely agriculture and telecoms. The two sectors that are crucial in local value chain creation. As the world has been brought to its knees by the pandemic, Nigeria’s resilience has once again prevailed.

Of course, Nigeria is not exempt from the economic damages brought by the pandemic, which add up to challenges persisting from the economic crisis of 2017 that the country was still battling against. But this testament of resilience, together with increasing confidence in Nigeria’s ability to leave oil-dependency behind on the path to economic diversification, will make this edition another success.

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Moreover, we will be covering several states outside of Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which also remain key areas of our research. It is well known that both local and foreign media in Nigeria tend to dedicate more of their attention to Lagos and Abuja when it comes to the country’s economy. We want to put other states under the spotlight and showcase their investment attractiveness, their policy and regulation frameworks, and their business climate. Last but not least, the next decade is the decade of Africa: with the African Continental Free Trade Area, the largest free trade area in the world, having come into force on January 1, all eyes will be on the continent. Nigeria, as Africa’s largest country, will inevitably be at the center of this conversation.

The agreement’s implications on Nigeria are many, and we intend to pay very close attention to how the geopolitical and economic dynamics are expected to evolve as a result. The Business Year’s partners and readers can be assured that the research and resulting publication will be yet another tremendous success in showcasing Nigeria’s greatness to the world and in placing the country on the international map. And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our Nigerian partners, from government agencies to private companies, who have assisted us in our research over the years.

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