Nigeria needs more international investments amidst a rising population, the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, said on Monday.
Mr Karlsen, who stated this in his opening remarks at an event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and launching of the bank in Abuja, lamented the high rate at which Nigeria’s population was growing.
He said this highlights the daunting challenge Nigeria was facing in catering for its citizens.
“Every year, Nigeria is adding to its population,” Mr Karlsen noted. “Every year, there are more Nigerians born than the entire European Union combined.
“In just a few years’ times, Nigeria is likely to take over the place of the United States as the first biggest country in the world.”
Describing the reality of the situation as mind-boggling, the head of the EU delegation to Nigeria said this reflects the necessity to increase the Union’s engagement in terms of international investments.
He identified areas the EU would need to focus on to include: facilitating the provision of real infrastructure, affordable energy and education for Nigeria to benefit from the best or most attractive capital for the people.
Nigeria’s population figures varies
Nigeria’s population figure varies according to different agencies and institutions.
Recent data by the National Population Commission (NPC) pegged the country’s population at about 198 million.
But, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in its demographic statistics report on June 6, 2018 that the country’s population as at 2016 was estimated at about 193.4 million.
This is against the World Bank’s figure, which ranks Nigeria as the 7th most populous country in the world, with an estimated 186 million people.
With urban population growing at an average annual rate of about 6.5 per cent, the World Population Prospects has projected that by 2050, Nigeria would emerge as the third most populated country in the world.
EIB’s role in Nigeria
Mr Karlsen said the situation calls for increased engagement between Nigeria and the EU delegation to leverage opportunities to influence and support Nigerian-led investments to create jobs and grow the economy.
He said the coming of the EIB in Nigeria was to ensure the world’s biggest investment bank had the opportunity to play a bigger role in the economy of the biggest country in Africa.
The envoy said with EIB’s integrated approach to development, the EU would ensure engagements and political dialogues with development corporations held along a common framework to promote trade and economic diplomacy and investments in Nigeria.
Apart from sustaining its engagement on issues of mobility and migration, Mr Karlsen said the EU would identify the value chain to create jobs and opportunities for investment to create more jobs for young Nigerians.
In her presentation, EIB Regional Representative for West Africa, Isabelle Grunderbeeck, said apart from being the banker to the 28 member-states of the EU, the EIB also operates in about 160 countries of the world.
Ms Grunderbeeck said in 2017, the bank recorded a significant increase in its investments in Nigeria, with Group Financing for the year put at about €78.2 billion and total investment support at about €250 billion
She said the support to about 450 projects every year covered jobs creation in small businesses, health, education, water supply, transport, energy, urban development and digital communications technology.
EIB’s Loan Officer, West Africa, Inmaculada Riba, said EIB disbursed about €296 million via seven facilities granted nine Nigerian banks.
Another €210 million was disbursed by the bank for 50 sub-projects to be lent in foreign currency, with allocation averaging €4.5 million per project.
Sectors covered by the disbursements include wholesale & retail trade, education, manufacturing, construction, transportation, accommodation, human health, information & communication, electricity & gas, agriculture, scientific & technical activities.
One of the highlights of bank’s activities in 2018 was the investment of about €17 million in equity participation in Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN).
DBN was established by the Nigerian government to provide funding in local currency to financial intermediaries for on-lending mainly to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
In addition, Ms Riba said the EIB plans to sustain the private sector support through funds, with Nigeria currently the top beneficiary of about €87 million commitment.
The Minster of State for National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, noted the positive developments in the economy associated with the increased presence of EIB in Nigeria.
Ms Ahmed said apart from facilitating public-private sector projects of about €1.6 billion in the areas of agriculture, power, transport, small and medium enterprises and mass employment through industrialisation, the EIB also committed recently to make available between €800 million and €1 billion for private sector investments.
She said this was a demonstration of the growing ties between the EU and Nigeria.