Harvests from Nigeria’s global economic summit in New York, By Garba Shehu

Last Thursday, the Nigeria International Economic Partnership Forum took place in Manhattan, New York amid the most important international event of the year: the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The forum was hugely popular, attracting around 500 guests and delegates – almost double the expected number. While this resulted in a somewhat chaotic atmosphere at times, the forum was a resounding success: a clear sign of investor confidence in Nigeria.

Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa and aims to increase GDP to $965 billion by 2027 – almost $1 trillion.

Under President Muhammadu Buhari, the nation has made significant progress in the construction of highways, bridges, railways, electricity, electrification and airport capacity expansion and upgrading.

As the President spoke, expressing his administration’s determination to open more and more sectors of the economy to the private sector, one particular participant was stunned, not a few, when he announced that he was building $1.3 trillion in pension funds. Dollars managed, money well in excess of Nigeria’s current GDP, five times more.

First, agreements worth well over $1 billion were signed at the forum in favor of Nigeria and its partners, including a $1.3 billion investment by Sun Africa in a new solar energy project; $70 million provided by Adryada and Noblesse Green Energy for a new biodiversity project; Strategic financing support announced by Honeywell UOP for a new refinery in the Niger Delta; and a major philanthropic investment in data for Nigerian schools, announced by Airtel Africa, which would bring internet connectivity to 100 schools every year for five years.

A highlight of the event was the Presidential Luncheon, where guest of honor President Buhari was joined by CEOs and senior executives from some of the largest and most well-known American and African companies, including GE, Chevron, Honeywell, Bell Flight, Sun Africa, McGraw Hill, and American Tower many more.

The full guest list of attendees included American Tower Corporation, Aveva, Big Sun Holdings, Citi, CrossBoundry Group, Cure Violence Global, Entrust, Educational Testing Service, ExxonMobil, GE Healthcare, Gilead Sciences and Hello Tractor.

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Also present were Google, McLarty Associates, Medici Land Governance, NBA, Odum Capital, Oracle, Pearson, Rendeavour, Roche, Seed Global Health, Standard Bank, TIAA/Nuveen, UBA America, the AfDB, African EXIM Bank and their US Pendant, Export Import Bank of United States, led by Reta Jo Lewis, the first African American woman to lead the organization, and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank, IDB.

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We also had actual involvement from the World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Agricultural Fund (IFAD) and the NEPAD Agency for Africa.

Of course, no one could have overlooked the overarching presence and actual participation of the Corporate Council of Africa, whose current President, Florie Liser, spoke at the meeting and said the organization is pushing for a private sector roadmap to support multi-sector investment to achieve this Promote economic growth in Nigeria.

Some of the country’s largest companies were also represented at the highest level including, but not limited to, major oil giant NNPC Limited, Nigerian Ports Authority, NIPC, NEXIM Bank, Ndimis Oriental Energy, First Bank, Airtel, Flour Mills Nigeria , the Fertilizer Producers Association of Nigeria, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and so many others.

Interestingly, several young Nigerian entrepreneurs who continue to make their mark on the global business landscape were also present.

After breakfast and the opening session, we had the first plenary session on Nigeria’s economic prospects and the second on high-level talks on expanding international partnerships for Nigeria on the development offensive. After that, eight breakout sessions took place simultaneously for the actual business that led everyone here.

There was a thematic group seeking answers to key questions about growing Nigerian agriculture for food security and export market access. It addressed issues of increased investment in fertilizers and urea, opportunities for Nigeria-EU partnerships in the face of the Russia-Ukraine war, and issues such as the need for technological support and innovative financing mechanisms for agriculture.

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Nigeria’s oil and gas sector was discussed with a focus on ‘reforms, outcomes and the way forward’, where international interest was sparked for the two pipeline projects bringing Nigerian gas to Europe through Morocco and Algeria. Awareness was also raised by NNPC Limited on the dangers of crude oil to Nigeria and the world at large. They called it “blood oil”.

The investment climate in Nigeria including systemic risks and the prospects of the African continental trade deal were also brought into focus.

Infrastructure options in power, clean energy, transportation and water were discussed, as were ways and means of increasing capital flows to Nigeria, industrial finance, international development finance and the path to greater financial inclusion.

Nigeria also brought international discussions to the forum on the quest to increase international resources to fund education on the continent, and the need for innovative covenant mechanisms to link government, covenant sponsors and international capital pools in the health sector.

There was also a very broad discussion on the next steps for technological development: new technologies, satellite technology, digital communications, financing clean industries and using technology to combat insecurity.

There has been some criticism of the size of the venue and the number of guests; It can only be said that those making these criticisms have never experienced New York during the UNGA – one of the busiest and most important international events in the world, attended annually by leading figures from around the world.

The President himself underlined the importance of representation at the forum when he said: “The beauty of this forum is that the ministers responsible for all these sectors are here today, as are some of Nigeria’s top business leaders who are already distinguishing themselves these rooms.”

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Some criticized the quality of speakers at the forum. With a lineup that included the President himself, the country’s top ministers, and top executives from the prominent corporations already mentioned, these claims can only be described as inaccurate. Those who stray around with other names of alleged speakers who didn’t attend are merely misinformed and are basing their information on a dated draft list of potential invitees – not the final list.

Unfortunately, there are those who will always try to criticize Nigeria for its own political gain and belittle it even in moments of its greatest success. The resoundingly successful Nigeria International Economic Partnership Forum is a clear example. We look forward to an equally successful repeat next year.

Nigeria owes this successful program to everyone, not least in this category to the President’s Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a veteran of the United Nations and global systems, who was the focal point of the entire event.

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant for Media and Public Relations to President Muhammadu Buhari.

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