By Dada Olusegun
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu last week embarked on his second official trip to the Arabian Peninsula since assumption of office five months ago as part of his aggressive drive to further open up Nigeria to the world. The President in early September after attending the G20 Summit in New Delhi had stopped over at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for a fruitful bilateral meeting with the UAE authorities.
The Arabian peninsula, which is home to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates etc, is fast becoming a global investment nucleus that exports multi-billion dollar investments across the world especially in the highly unsaturated developing economies of the global South.
The Arabian Peninsula is known for its rich history and culture, as well as its diverse geography. From the towering mountains of the Hajar Mountains to the vast sand dunes of the Rub’ al Khali, the Arabian Peninsula is simply a land of extremes. Yet they have found a way to turn these lands into a land of wealth and prosperity. The peninsula possess almost half of the world’s proven petroleum reserves.
Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the peninsula has a population of just 36 million people but commands a nominal GDP of over US$1 trillion. One fifth of the world’s crude oil reserve is in Saudi Arabia. It has built a sovereign wealth portfolio of US$776 billion principally from its enormous oil wealth over the years and wants to diversify into other areas outside oil and gas, including investing outside Saudi Arabia. This is what Nigeria’s chief marketer, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s investment eagle eye perceived, hence his Saudi Arabia visit.
From the word go, it was clear that the President was heading to Saudi Arabia not just for the maiden Saudi Arabia-Africa Summit but to hawk Nigeria as a nation ready to welcome the investment world, a nation that has embarked on bold reforms to dismantle historical obstacles to a market-driven Nigerian economy and a nation with a huge consumer base and a willing, young and dynamic workforce.
On getting to Riyadh, President Tinubu participated in an Investor Roundtable where dozens of Chief Executive Officers from several Saudi conglomerates specializing in construction, finance, new and traditional energy, healthcare, agriculture, electric power, mining, aviation, telecommunications, creative arts, and hospitality were present.
To underscore Nigeria’s readiness to do business and discuss any potential deals, the President was accompanied to the Investor Roundtable by a strong Nigerian delegation comprising the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Foreign Affairs, Petroleum Resources (Oil), Trade and Investment, Agriculture, Humanitarian Affairs & Poverty Alleviation as well Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy.
The Nigerian business community was equally led by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote and he reiterated that Nigeria is the world’s best kept secret in terms of investments and returns while also pointing out that Nigerian companies can add a lot of value to the Saudi economy. It is therefore gratifying to note that President Bola Tinubu and the Saudi authorities are eager to have the Nigeria-Saudi Business Council inaugurated quickly so as to drive these mutual business partnerships to yield tangible benefits for both countries.
After a powerful speech by President Bola Tinubu to investors, many Saudi Captains of Industry who were wowed by the passionate pitch of Nigeria’s foremost salesman, began making concrete investment pledges across some sectors in need of investment in Nigeria such as the oil and gas, agriculture, power, telecommunications, solid minerals etc. These investment pledges did not stop there, both countries took it a step further.
Kahlid El-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s Trade and Investment Minister, promised that he will be visiting Nigeria before the end of the year or early 2024 alongside the Saudi Minister of Commerce with a very large delegation of Saudi CEOs from all key sectors. He emphasised that it is obvious Nigeria is ready for business under President Tinubu and there are not coming for exploratory discussion but for implementation. The Saudi Trade Minister called the anticipated visit an “action visit”.
The Saudi Trade and Investment Minister further said: “Mr. President, you agree with me that good intentions alone will not take us anywhere, so we will prepare well with your team and our investors will align with your officials, beginning now, to develop a concrete work plan of investments in the key sectors for takeoff when we meet again. When we meet soon in Abuja, it will be to sign and begin delivery on all agreements. We will also use the opportunity to formally inaugurate the Nigeria-Saudi Business Council.”
The above statement by the Saudi official is not what you see in everyday bilateral meetings or business roundtables involving investors. This is a strong commitment to invest in Nigeria by the Saudi business community who have seen uncommon eagerness from the highest level of leadership in Nigeria not just to seek foreign investments but to actively remove any barrier that can make would-be foreign investors to develop cold feet. Such was the clear messaging that investors saw from President Bola Tinubu in Saudi Arabia.
President Bola Tinubu by tending to pivot towards the Arabian Peninsula and Asia in search of much needed investment for Nigeria is simply following his professional instincts. It is time for Nigeria to seek new and more effective financial/investment partnerships to fast-track the growth of many underdeveloped sectors in the Nigerian economy.
If there is any part of the world currently that boasts of enormous investment capital with little or no political strings attached, it is the Arabian Peninsula and that is where President Bola Tinubu took his marketing and investment driver to. And what a massive success it was!