Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism Lai Mohammed, who was recently on a three-day visit to Riyadh, said his government was keen to deepen trade and investment ties in all sectors with Saudi Arabia.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Mohammed said: “This trip was put together and anchored by the United Nations World Tourism Organization because we believe that tourism today drives investment. The purpose of the visit is to promote investment between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.
“The fact that I have come with Nigerian billionaire business magnate Aliko Dangote, who is also Africa’s leading industrialist, I think is testimony to the strategy of (the) Nigerian government — to not only create an enabling business environment for local businessmen and investors, but it is also a testament to the synergy between the private sector and the government in deepening investment and promoting the economy.”
“We have been here since Saturday, and we have been able to have our quality audience with the minister of tourism, the vice minister of industry, the vice minister of mineral resources, the vice minister of mines, and then the vice minister of sports. In all these meetings, we have been discussing the possibility of cross-investment,” said Mohammed.
He said that Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have agreed to set up a joint business council to boost bilateral cooperation.
“I have been informed by our embassy here that we have sent nominees from our side, we are now waiting for the Saudi authority to send their nominees so that we will be able to take off,” said the minister.
Mohammed said: “One of the good things about this visit was that during a meeting at the Ministry of Investment on Sunday, the export department told us of their willingness to come to Nigeria, because they are looking into making Nigeria the hub for the logistics in West Africa, to start with trade and then go into manufacturing …. there are many opportunities in Nigeria that are going to deepen trade between the two countries.”
He said business ties between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were largely informal and that his trip would allow them to formalize the planned engagements between the two nations. He described the visit as “successful” and “very encouraging,” as it “opened doors for us to deepen our relationship in sports, in tourism and culture.”
Mohammed said there had been some impediments in Nigerian business, but the critical bottleneck issues have been resolved with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council set up in July 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. It was launched to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in the country.
He said that between 2016 and 2019, as a result of these changes, Nigeria gained nine steps in the World Bank index of ease of doing business. And between 2018 and 2019, the country was named twice as one of the top 10 improved economies in the world. In 2019, the World Economic Forum commended the Nigerian government for meeting three out of four objectives of making business attractive.
Nigeria has also introduced reforms and digitization efforts, including filing and paying tax online and also passing two important regulations which would make it easy for enterprises of all sizes to use their movable assets. Nigeria also launched a credit rating facility to ensure transparency.
Mohammed added that on Jan. 10 this year, Buhari signed the Business Facilitation (Miscellaneous Provision) Bill 2022, also known as the “Omnibus Bill.” It will make it easy to do business and invest in the African nation.
The Omnibus Bill consolidates and amends legislative provisions toward ease-of-doing-business reforms and removes bottlenecks for micro, small and medium enterprises.