Any investor worth their salt will only be concerned with two things; a return on their investment and the risk associated with it. As anyone will tell you, Nigeria is a country of great investment opportunities wherever you look so why isn’ t the investment flowing in?
You could come up with any manner of reasons for this but one which should take care of most of those responses is the lack of good governance in the business sector. The first thing an investor wants to look at is the books, then who’s running the show before they ask “How is the show being run?”. Unfortunately too many organisations are found wanting at this stage, the pocket books are pocketed and return flights are boarded as the foreign investors leave, looking for better prospects where they won’t get stung.
So what should be done to turn this around? The work should start in the organisation itself without waiting for external bodies to set up regulations and reporting. Boards should examine their terms of reference and their reporting, examine conflicts of interest and if the right mix of experience and integrity is available around the table. Once this is in place, the board should, as a group examine the values they want to instill and uphold in the organisation to provide the desired results for their investors (prospective or otherwise), their staff and the greater corporate responsibilities they hope to achieve.
They would need to ask if the necessary checks and balances are in place to make sure all processes are fair and transparent. Are accountable officers aware of their responsibilities and the consequences of failure in those responsibilities, and is the reporting structure from the shop floor to the boardroom effective and adequate to maintain clear communication channels should things go wrong. Organisations should also ensure they honour their contracts to the letter if possible with foreign investors. The cultural divide might mean the way business is done in Nigeria will be different to how it is in other countries, so something that might appear to be insignificant omission or slip cold translate as a major incident to foreign investors.
Apart from the company’s governance it is also important that the foreign investor feels there are adequate safeguards and access to restitution if things go wrong. So the need to ensure the legal system provides adequate protection for foreign investors in a timely manner, is paramount.
Once you have all these elements aligned the next step would be to ensure it is well documented and available to all, especially your potential investors. A foreign investor with preconceptions about a country and how business is being done there, will feel reassured that the necessary mechanisms are in place to ensure their investments will be handled according to a set of rules by an organisation who is prepared to abide by a code in which they operate. Furthermore, the chain of responsibility is the best way to advertise “where the buck stops” and whether or not they are a safe pair of hands.
Of course you will need to draft other policies to ensure your governance is adhered to such as conflict of interest, whistle blowing and a delegation scheme for it to be effective. Making this information publicly available is also a good way to attract foreign investment as nothing opens pocket books faster than transparency; the open palm, the face without sunglasses, the promise of honey without getting stung.