leaders in government and business on the frontier emerging market (FEM) status of the country. Our key objective is to lock in dialogue and action around the fact that Nigeria has been recognized in September 2009 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as one of the FEMs in sub Saharan Africa.
The IMF list of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Botswana as the bright spots for growth in the south of the Sahara in Africa has many implications. One it means that Nigeria is not the only growth market in this region. It means that Nigeria will therefore have to compete for private capital inflows to Africa, or more specifically, the FEM funds targeting this region.
Another implication is that FEMs are economies in transition. What is significant about the statement the IMF issued on these markets last September is that the market conditions in Nigeria in 2008 for example was better than what obtained in the South East Asian markets some 20 years ago when countries like South Korea, India, China and sub sovereigns like Taiwan were identified as frontier emerging markets. Today, these countries have actualized their potentials and have transformed into established emerging markets (EMs), never mind that we often talk about the BRIC markets.
So the key issue is that 15 to 20 years down from 2008, would Nigeria have transformed into an emerging market? It is for the purpose that Nigeria must actualize her potentials and become more competitive for the FEM funds that we have instituted the Emerging Nigeria Conference Series under which the Nigeria Development & Finance Forum is a flagship annual conference.
What are the issues this year conference will address?
We have identified a very hot agenda, but let me provide a certain background to it. The collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market is at the root of the current recession in most of the developed economies and more broadly speaking - economic slowdown around the world. The current global economic woe had begun to manifest quite early in 2007. But it didn't hit Africa until late in 2008. This is why many statements were gleefully made until late last year that Africa, including Nigeria, but with the exception of South Africa, was de-coupled from the international financial system and the toxic assets that eroded the balance sheets of the once thriving big US, European and Asian banks, caused investors to scamper to safety. That point was good for then. Eventually, the financial crisis is now here with us in Africa.
The big questions is will Nigeria also be de-coupled from recovery which has begun to show some signs in a few places as indicated by the rising consumer spending in China and improved corporate performances in the United States last quarter? These are the earliest signs and many economists including those in the IMF believe we are still a few months away from recovery.
I believe Nigeria should integrate better with the anticipated recovery. We need to continue to let global investors and asset managers know that, for instance, the combined GDP of the seven other FEM markets in sub Saharan Africa in 2007, is just 62% of Nigeria's GDP same year. Not only that, Nigeria?s 6.1 per cent average real GDP growth over the three years to 2007, is comparable to the other fastest growing SSA economies. What I mean therefore is that Nigeria is the big market. Nigeria is also a fast growing economy.
Are there other issues the conference will address apart from technical issues of economics?
Thank you very much for that question. Economic growth is just one of the indicators of a performing economy. This conference seeks to also discuss issues around broad-based economic empowerment. As a matter of fact, the theme of the conference is Prospects and Risks to Broad-based Economic Performances in Nigeria.
In the recent past, there was certain disillusionment about how the fantastic growth we experienced up to last year had not translated into the desired level of poverty reduction. But let me quickly say that we cannot take growth for granted. However, the issue of sustainable social funding is one of the challenges this conference will address in the topic - The Crisis of Values in the Nigerian Budgetary Process to be addressed by Prof. Ademola Ariyo who is a consultant to the National Assembly on appropriation.
We will highlight the fact that governance and market reforms have thrived in Nigeria, even if the momentum is seen to have sagged.
If you look at our list of keynote speakers and seminar discussants, it would be obvious that we intend to address as many issues as are important in helping the country to move from the point where we are now to the next stage of building the support structures for growing our markets, deepening democratic values and improving the quality of lives in Nigeria.
Can you tell us who are on your list of speakers?
When we held the first of this conference in the UK in March last year, we had the Ag High Commissioner, His Excellency Ambassador Nwanna Dozie in attendance, and the Nigeria High Commission was naturally the host of the conference. Similarly, we will have the presence of His Excellency, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK to grace the event. We have as confirmed keynote speakers and seminar discussants:
Dr. Mansur Muhtar, Honourable Minister of Finance
Dr. Gamaliel Onosode, Chairman, Zain Nigeria
Prof. Akpan Ekpo, President, Nigerian Economic Society, Board Member, CBN
Mr. Aigboje Aig ? Imoukhuede, Group Managing Director, Access Bank Plc
Hon. Ayo Ademola Adeseun, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation
Prof. Ademola Ariyo, HOD, Department of Economics, University of Ibadan
Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, Director General, Debt Management Office
Dr. Ken Ife, African Business Roundtable, NEPAD
Mr. Tunde Popoola, CEO, Credit Reference Company
Dr. Olutoyin Phillips, Director, Intercontinental Bank Plc
Mr. George Etomi, Chairman, Business Law, Nigerian Bar Association
Mr. Simon Kolawole, Editor, Thisday Newspaper
Mr. Joachim Adenusi, Director, British Institute of Risk Management
Mr. Adeyemi Johnson, Head, Compliance & Legal, Guaranty Trust Bank, UK
Mr. Funso Fasoto, CEO, Gabe Fasoto & Co.
We have reached out to more stakeholders in the private sector and government. So the list of speakers is bound to grow in the days leading to the conference.
What are the outcomes this conference target and why hold the conference abroad?
The first part of your question has been clearly defined in our objectives for NDFF2009. We anticipate that with this conference, Nigeria will be on the radar of more foreign investors. Nigeria will integrate with recovery from the global economic slowdown, while Nigerian leaders across the sectors would have seized the opportunity to communicate their development and business goals to an international audience.
On why the conference will hold abroad, my response is that in Financial Nigeria we have identified the need to re-spark dialogue on Nigeria internationally. We have to be proactive in engaging the international business community, and I believe a private initiative like ours can support government efforts.
In 2008 when my organization conceived of the Emerging Nigeria Conferences, we simply wanted to put Nigeria out there and share her market place information with people operating in the key financial centres of the world. The 2009 edition will hold in London, but in the subsequent years, the conference will be hosted in as far as Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Frankfurt or as close as Johannesburg or even Accra. Nigeria Development & Finance Forum is facilitation of trade and investment into Nigeria. We will therefore host the conference where this can happen.
What other information would you like to share with the interested public about the conference?
For the corporate leaders, especially the financial institutions, this year conference presents early opportunities for partnership with Financial Nigeria International to promote Nigeria's improved economic performance. We are quite delighted in the level of sponsorship we have received from Arik Air and our partners like BBC Focus on Africa, Paceworking UK and The Quadrant Company.
We have chosen a very serene and classy conference venue for the serious discussion that will take place on 15 - 16 May, 2009. The venue is The Guoman Cumberland Hotel, London. We have setup a website for the conference and the web address is www.financialnigeria.com/ndff2009. All the information sponsors and delegates would require is available there or on request. Also, all delegates to the conference will pre-register on the website. Quite a number registrations have begun to come through.
Finally, Nigeria Development & Finance Forum 2009 is endorsed by the Nigerian Economic Society (NES), African Business Round Table and Nigeria House of Representatives Committees on Appropriation and Diaspora.
'Jide Akintunde is the coordinator of the upcoming Nigeria Development & Finance Forum 2009 which will hold in London on May 15-16 to discuss risks to long-term socio-economic and market performances in Nigeria. Details of the programme are available at www.financialnigeria.com/ndff2009.