Unlocking developing countries’ potentialities for business and investment growth would always certainly depend on learning from past mistakes and creating the right policy frameworks to drive expansion and sustainability. Political players in Africa have a lot to learn about making the people’s interest the centre-piece of business policies by creating a level-play ground for all, irrespective of political leanings and peregrinations.
There is an urgent need to put an end to the detrimental and rabid primordial sentiments that pervade Africa and inhibit the ease of doing business on the continent. Forward-looking governments globally would necessarily attune themselves to expanding the frontiers of ensuring the ease of doing business.
A number of executive orders along that line were issued last year by the federal government under the acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a development which received national and international plaudits.
Take a look at this: Washington Post has been a source of almost constant irritation for the US president, Donald Trump – a torn in his flesh. This tabloid is owned by Jeff Bezos who is, officially, the richest man on the planet, as of today. Bezos definitely cannot be a friend of Trump, not in the current situation. But guess what, Bezos’s rising wealth is “a result of a surge in the value of Amazon shares – fuelled by a stock market rally that owes much to Trump’s corporate tax cuts, which came into force at the start of the year,” according to The Guardian.
In Nigeria, Mr. Segun Adebutu, the multi-talented Nigerian business magnate does not need to be a friend of the president or promoter of any party in power for his multi-million dollars investment in the energy landscape to flourish. That is how a nation should work. Do you know that Bezos is also investing $33 million to fund college scholarships for 1,000 undocumented immigrant (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – DACA) high school students who live in the US – a development that Trump may not like?
But the nation’s interest is more important than that of the President.
While Nigeria’s energy sector is plagued by several problems, largely caused by the undue influence of political power players and lack of best practices, it was a comment by former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the commissioning of Adebutu’s “new wonder” – Petrolex’s multi-million dollar tank farm in Ibefun, Ogun State, last year, that should get us thinking. With Professor Osinbajo in attendance, Obasanjo urged the federal government and Nigerians to leverage on the tank farm to tackle supply and distribution of petroleum products in the country.
He expressed deep concerns based on his experience of the impediments associated with investing in Africa, especially in Nigeria, even as he insisted: “We should make use of this facility. If not utilised, it will be a waste to the nation and a waste of investment put into it. Government should support private sector initiative….Private sector initiative without government support will amount to nothing. I will urge Segun Adebutu to hold the government on their promise to help private sector initiative.” The former president is experienced enough to know how a government’s negative actions could badly affect businesses.
Remarkably, Adetubu has shown such uncanny capacity, wisdom, drive and purposefulness to sit at the top of big global players like Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. The difference, however, is the friendly and conducive business climates and supporting infrastructure that allow these other players to soar to any heights.
More than 70% of problems that inhibit business growth in a place like Nigeria are eliminated in other climes. It is, therefore, difficult to navigate the complex Nigerian energy landscape, laced with several impediments and mines, without government’s support.
But despite these challenges, if you think investing in the Nigerian troubled streams is pure folly, then you are probably underestimating the vision, vigilance and audacity of Segun Adebutu’s rising potentialities to be a dominant player in Africa.
Unlike a few other business players who have risen to regional prominence through a back-to-back support from political power brokers, Adebutu has not been seen around Abuja’s corridors of power that much to be labeled “state-made.” In essence, the audacity that comes with such massive and patriotic investments has, no doubt, factored in how to mitigate challenges.
With its vast richness in oil and natural resources, Nigeria still remains a key nation on the global oil chessboard of the 21st century and holds a strategic position as, arguably, the leader of the black race.
Pivotal to the country’s strive to wriggle out of its numerous challenges is the active involvement of patriotic and visionary private sector players. The big foray of Adebutu into the downstream sector with a mega world-class tank farm, in addition to a refinery that will come on stream in a few years, readily comes to mind as one of those strategic private investments that we need to solve problems and unlock more potentialities in the downstream sector.
It is expected that the country will speed up reforms in the oil industry with the recent passage of the first phase of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), which is awaiting the assent of the President. Private players like Adebutu would be able to add greater value to the sector and grow their investments with limitless possibilities.
And when fully operational, it is hoped that the law will help to institute best practices in the industry, overhaul the sector and put Nigeria in a good stead to attract more investments. There is about $2 trillion oil investments expected in Africa by 2036 that Nigerian can significantly tap into.
The onerous task of nation-building is, by far, beyond the government or the lawmakers alone. As a matter of fact, it is a collective effort – a responsibility Adebutu himself has come to demonstrate by words and deeds. To commit an investment worth over $330 million in a nation where the ease of doing business is 145 in global index, is indicative of a great level of love of country, sacrifice and patriotism.
This outstanding investment is more than validating it as “a solution-driven company….positioned to drive increased efficiency and consistent value creation across the West African downstream oil and gas value chain through strategic investments and the delivery of superior quality products and services.”
That Petrolex has come to create over “10,000 new direct and indirect jobs,” when the unemployment figure in Nigeria is becoming unbearable, hitting 16 million, is great news. Adebutu is an irrepressible philanthropist; that his company’s extensive social investment programme would impact more than two million lives, and will maintain a very healthy balance with the environment, is a beautiful music to the ear.
The people of Lagos have every reason to be happy too: the tank farm is “equipped with state-of-the-art technology that can help to decongest Apapa and Ibafo tanker traffic by 60%, thereby eliminating hazards associated with storage and transportation of petroleum products in those areas.”
In a few years, if business-support infrastructure can improve in Nigeria and we can fully reform the energy sector and put in place best practices that allow investments to thrive unhindered, someone like Adebutu will compete favourably with the best of the world. He has got what it takes with his rising chains of businesses. Aside being the Chief Executive Officer of Petrolex, this consummate businessman sits atop several other companies and the popular Premier Lotto Nigeria Limited as the Executive Director.
He also has business interests in shipping, construction, real estate, agriculture and entertainment.
Very encouraging to see Adebutu urging other private investors and entrepreneurs to follow suit by going to Ibefun in Ogun state, where Petrolex mega oil city is located, to invest their capitals. He knows that no nation or society can develop without the private investors. Businesses create jobs and pay taxes; and, this should make it natural for government to want to help them to thrive. The government really does not need any persuasion to do what is right. If government supports Adebutu to become our own Jeff Bezoz, the country will be the better for it.
Ojeifo and Dare-Atoye write from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org[myad]