Ghana as Nigerians’ investments haven

by Gbenga Kayode

There is, arguably, no gainsaying the fact that the principal investment objective of the average entrepreneur is, essentially, to package a marketable business idea, seek an enabling environment for the business to implement such a concept in order to make it thrive, and possibly maximise gains or returns on his or her investment at the need of the day.

And in this potential manner, that such an investor perhaps, can create wealth and opportunities while empowering many others in the process. That is why the leading stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise, particularly the Government and its relevant agencies, directorates, commissions, departments and councils responsible for the provision and rehabilitation of requisite, supportive infrastructure that could create an investment-friendly environment that will enable such serious-minded entrepreneurs to actualise their business visions should rise to the occasion now.

In the light of the foregoing, therefore, it is nevertheless, disheartening to note that even long before the advent of the continued economic and financial meltdown, which started manifesting late 2008, and still troubles the global economy up till now, a sizeable number of Nigerian businesses apparently, had found the country’s business climate tough and unfriendly, reducing it to one in which a typical businessman or woman could hardly break even, let alone making profit and creating more opportunities and wealth. Hence, many of them had closed shop in Nigeria and headed for neighbouring countries in West African sub-region, particularly Ghana, formerly Gold Coast.

In a published press interview with Sylvester Parker Allortey, Consular General of the Ghanaian High Commission in Nigeria, in January 2011, on the alleged migration of Nigerian companies to Ghana in recent times, he had said: “It is true that some Nigerian companies have migrated from Nigeria to Ghana…. In a world of globalisation, most people would always move where they find opportunities and they find the cost of production to be lower.

“They would always move to places where they find stability, because nobody wants to operate in an environment that is uncertain and they also need security in form of moving around the country freely without fear. Also, they also want to move to places where they find that their investment has been guaranteed. These are factors which determine where business people go…. Even people within the sub-regions are also locating businesses where they would be most profitable,” Allortey further declared.

Thus, it will be somewhat hard for any Nigerian who is fully aware of the realities on the ground in the country as of now, to dispute the Ghanaian Consular General’s submission on why Nigerian businesses have continued to move into Ghana in droves, particularly in connection with continual rife insecurity of lives and property, skyrocketing cost of production, irregular power supply, and general aura of hopelessness and uncertainty among the citizenry.

Having created opportunities and wealth for his fellow Ghanaians for years so far, George Aboagye, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, in a recent media chat in Lagos, also cheerfully disclosed that between 1994 and 2011, about 17 Nigerian businesses located in Ghana had contributed US$1.5 billion (about N240 billion) to the advancement of the Ghanaian economy. He was quoted to have said that Nigerian investments in Ghana were further “forecast to grow by additional $500 million (about N80 billion) by 2015.”

According to Aboagye, some of the key sectors in which Nigerian businesses are recording visible feats while making good things happen back in his home country include agriculture, manufacturing, building, services, tourism and the general and export trade sectors, saying “Ghana is richly endowed with human and natural resources… whenever a Nigerian comes to do business, the knowledge and experience he brings always prove very useful to us in Ghana.” Why not, when their (Nigerians’) homeland seems not ready to create an enabling environment for their businesses to thrive?

Incidentally, three of the major areas –agriculture, manufacturing and tourism– where these Nigerian businesses are said to be making meaningful contributions in Ghana are some of the areas in which the Nigerian economy is gravely lacking at home. For instance, the country still imports foods of different kinds in several billions of Naira every year, due to near neglect of agriculture in the face of “cheap” oil money; dwindling fortune of the industrial sector as a result of principally epileptic power supply and capacity under-utilisation; and tourism, in which Nigeria, debatably, is yet to have a definite framework to tap into the huge investment opportunities endlessly lying fallow in this multi-billion Dollar industry.

Hence, sequel to the just concluded 17th Edition of Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#17), in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, which had in attendance, several heads of states and Governments, Presidents, foreign and local investors as well as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of world’s global corporations from Europe, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa, for any marked progress to be recorded in the political, socio-economic arenas in the country as things grimly stand now, the Federal Government in conjunction with all other relevant security agencies and Nigerians in general must do all it can to tackle the prevalent insecurity challenge, particularly posed by the rampaging Boko Haram Islamic sect members bombing and maiming innocent people all over the places.

Just as Nigerians themselves understand quite well that the greatest threat to any potentially viable investment in Nigeria today is the issue of insecurity of lives and property. That is why one readily shares the sentiments of the foreign investors at the NES#17, in Abuja, who supposedly expressed their non-committal to any further investments in Nigeria for now, as a result of perceived insecurity.

Contrary to President Goodluck Jonathan’s pronouncement at the Summit, that “anybody who fails to invest in Nigeria now because of these incidences of Boko Haram will regret it. Those who think that Nigeria is a place where they can always come and dump their products will eventually be disappointed because this will not continue for long,” his subtle threat to potential investors in Nigeria may not sound convincing after all, unless the country decidedly acts to improve on the disheartening security situation and revive its comatose and struggling industrial sector to prevent further dumping of all manner of goods and products on the supposed “Giant of Africa”.

Instead of sounding utopian as if nothing so serious is bugging down the country’s socio-economic development security-wise, or that Nigeria does not need the support of these identified foreign investors, aside from giving them incentives such as custom duties exemption for plants, machinery, equipment, reasonable corporate taxes and tax holidays, and relief from alleged double taxation, the Government needs to appeal to and reassure them by creating the needed conducive environment to guarantee the safety of their investments.

If these measures are put in place and faithfully implemented, then, they also will be consistent with the aspirations of the Administration’s stated Transformation Agenda and Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020. It is high time we walked the talk, but charity must begin at home: Nigerian investors and businesses should also be encouraged to have confidence in the system, and create wealth and extend opportunities for empowerment to others in their fatherland as well.

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