Nigeria’s economy has rebounded from its COVID-19 crisis with growth of 3.4% in 2021. Zenith Bank Group Chief Executive Ebenezer Onyeagwu joins World Finance to discuss the country’s economic health, latest plan of government development and the many opportunities available in Nigeria for investors. who understand the long-term needs and potential of the country. Watch the other parts of this interview in our Zenith Bank playlist:
World Finance: How do you view the economic health of the country?
Ebenezer Onyeagwu: I am very optimistic about the economic health of Nigeria. This is because Nigeria is a huge market. You have 200 million people, and 50% of that population, that demographic, is under 30.
Talk about an active, consuming and valuable workforce – you can’t do better! You can’t get this anywhere.
Now if you look at economic development, if you look at how we came out of the recession, what comes to mind is the combination of agriculture, ICT, services and fintech. These are sectors that are thriving.
There are a number of entrepreneurs who are innovating and digitizing all aspects of human engagement. So for me I’m pretty optimistic.
And again, the government has proposed a lot of reforms. The National Economic Development Plan highlights that the country needs nearly $800 billion to improve the country’s infrastructure over the next five years. It will be a difficult thing to achieve, because we will need Nigeria to really realize its potential, we need FDI to arrive.
World Finance: How attractive is Nigeria for foreign direct investors? There are a lot of risks associated with Nigeria – security risks, especially with infrastructure – what is your opinion on that?
Ebenezer Onyeagwu: Thank you Paul – in terms of security risk, there is insecurity everywhere. Different regions of the globe have their own security challenges. I can admit it! Yes we have ours but it is being processed.
If we invite the other challenges we see, they represent investment opportunities. For example, we don’t have – if we look at roads, we don’t have good roads. We don’t have a rail system that will facilitate the movement of people and also the movement of light goods here and there.
We also need investments in health care. The amount of exodus from Nigeria to other parts of the globe in terms of medical tourism is huge! But if we invest in health care, we can save a lot of foreign currency for the country.
And, if you look at agric – Nigeria, if you travel across the country, you see good arable land, that, oh, we have to do the training that you see is subsistence level! We have to mechanize it. We need investments. Nigeria can become the breadbasket, the organic food homeland of the world!
I can go on and on. But what you see is that it will take massive investment in the country, but whoever is coming should be long term. If you are not long term, I mean if you take a short term horizon in Nigeria you will not make money. In fact, you will create volatilities for everyone, including yourself.
I mean how is it in Nigeria, if you look at the return – Zenith Bank is only 32 years old. It was started by Mr. Ovia in 1990. We took the equivalent of $4 million. But today we have a shareholder fund of over £300 billion. I mean, it’s from Nigeria! We continue to grow and create wealth.
There are a lot of incentives. The government has also proposed a new finance law which has made the tax system much more efficient for businesses.
If you are looking for the destination of the next smart properties or buildings you own, it must be places like Nigeria and Africa.
Maybe what we need to do is more advocacy, you know, to make people aware that the country is not as bad as it has been perceived.