Elumelu, who is the chairman of publicly traded financial services provider United Bank for Africa (UBA), wooed the French investors during a speech as a keynote speaker at the 1st ‘Colloque Nigeria’, a colloquium on doing business and investment in Nigeria, which was organized by the French Senate in collaboration with the Business France and Banque publique d’investissement (BPI). The event held at the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris, France late last month and had more than 4,000 leading French entrepreneurs in attendance.
In his address, Elumelu encouraged the French business leaders to come and discover Nigeria and find the right partners to help them navigate the business environment. He cited the example of UBA – which has been operating profitably and successfully in Nigeria for 70 years and its subsequent footprint into 18 countries in Africa over the last decade.
“The Nigerian economy plays an important role in West Africa and beyond. So when you invest in Nigeria, the benefits spill over to our neighbors in dozens of countries,’ he said.
Elumelu posited that in spite of the challenges faced by African economies and especially the sharp drop in commodity prices, Nigeria still offers one of the highest returns on investment on the continent and beyond.
According to Nigeria’s Central Bank, the country is on the precipice of a recession. An upsurge of militant attacks has sent crude production, which accounts for 70% of government revenue, plunging to an almost 30-year low. Delays in approving a budget and a cabinet as well as President Buhari’s reluctance to devalue Nigeria’s overvalued naira has caused foreign investors to flee the country while Foreign direct investment in Nigeria was the lowest last year since the 2007-08 global financial crisis. But Elumelu told the attendees that Nigeria’s economic woes are only “temporary”.