A Boost for the Private Sector


President Goodluck Jonathan reverses an age-old tradition in which presidential state visits were dominated by politicians; visited China with doyens of the private sector

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Jul. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

UNLIKE in the past when politicians dominated the entourage of the president during state visits, President Goodluck Jonathan’s state visit to China, from July 11 to 12, was a different kettle of fish. Jonathan, who was accompanied in the visit by ministers in-charge of key ministries and doyens of the private sector, signed bilateral agreements with his Chinese counterpart.

Tony Elumelu

This change demonstrates the president’s commitment to leveraging the private sector to drive both development and trade and investment links between China and Africa.  Some of the business leaders in Jonathan’s entourage were Tony Elumelu, managing director of Heirs Holding, Femi Otedola, chief executive officer, Africa Petroleum, Oba Otudeko, chairman of Honeywell Plc, and  Folorunso Alakija, chairperson, Rose of Sharon Group.

Jonathan, along with the business leaders met with China’s President Xi Jinping. At the investment forum, which attracted more than 700 potential investors, their Nigerian counterparts and several governors as well as the ministers for trade and investment, aviation and power, President Jonathan said: “Nigeria today is like China 20 years ago – it is entering into a high growth phase. The economy is suitable for private sector involvement; we offer the best incentives and we have put the right structures in place to reduce the cost of entry into Nigeria. All of this is to encourage private sector participation in Nigeria.”

Oba Otudeko

Elumelu, who spoke on the occasion said: “The China-Africa relationship has historically been characterised by government-to-government engagement. However, Nigeria’s leadership – and increasingly that of a number of African countries – is embracing an Africapitalist approach where the private sector is leading transformative growth. China’s presence in Africa is important, but we would like that involvement to be more inclusive of the private sector to ensure a sustainable development path for the continent.”

Femi Otedola

According to him, “Globally, there is powerful evidence that the private sector is critical in driving a country’s economic growth and China is recognising that locally. We hope President Jonathan’s state visit will mark the start of a private sector-driven approach to China-Africa bilateral relations. The onus is now on us as African business leaders to ensure that future engagements will call for, and unlock opportunities for the private sector.”

Folorunso Alakija

Elumelu’s call came in the wake of the Chinese government’s drive to minimise its role in its own economy and reform state owned enterprises, SOE, which are still dominant.  However, private sector companies are increasingly contributing to China’s overall GDP growth and the Chinese government is creating policies that will allow them to flourish.

During the visit, Elumelu met with leading Chinese investors and business people to raise awareness of the numerous strategic projects under development in Nigeria and the opportunities for investment that they present. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, trade between China and Nigeria reached nearly $18 billion in 2010, almost ten times more than just a decade ago.

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