The signatories agreed to be “a driving force for good in the communities and natural environmen…by finding ways to avoid or mitigate negative impacts [and] to drive long-term sustainable growth whilst focusing on development priorities, safeguarding the environment and our people, and delivering measuring benefits to society and the real economy.”
Christian Mejrup, a portfolio manager of emerging markets at the Denmark-based investment management group Global Evolution, which holds Nigerian treasury bills, said that the escalation of Boko Haram’s terror attacks is “disturbing from a security perspective [but] from an economic perspective they are negligible, since they are still isolated to the northern part of Nigeria.” Two-thirds of the Nigeria’s growth (steady at steadily at 6 percent, while American growth, by comparison, remains sluggish at 2.5 percent) is produced by the 17 southern states, which covers 20 percent of the country. Lagos, the nation’s financial center, is located on the southeastern coast; it is the second fastest-growing city in Africa and the seventh worldwide.
“At some $5 billion dollars, Nigeria is the second largest destination for U.S. private investments in Africa,” said United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman at the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission Regional Security Cooperation Working Group meeting, held in the capital city of Abuja in August. And while she acknowledged that the Boko Haram insurgency is the greatest challenge to national stability, she said that the United States “will continue to invest in Nigeria’s institutions, people, and businesses to both countries’ mutual benefit.”
“There simply aren’t enough doctors to treat the rapidly growing patient group with type-2 diabetes, and very often even the larger hospitals don’t have enough insulin supplies,” said Jesper Høiland, Novo Nordisk’s senior vice president of international operations. Whether it’s a team of local school kids or a global healthcare corporation, it is clear that innovation, ingenuity and resiliency remain key to solving problems in a nation with a growing population (set to overtake the U.S. by the year 2050), one that often lacks access to the traditional pathways to stability and success.
In the early 1980s, Nigeria suffered an economic collapse that led the World Bank, in 1989, to declare it poor enough to be eligible for concessional aid, grouping it with such perennially impoverished states as Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia and Mali. Today, it’s a starkly different story. Nigeria is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with official development assistance (ODA) down and foreign direct investment (FDI) on the rise. In 2011 (the last year for which data has been made available by the World Bank), aid dropped by more than $285 million to $1.78 billion from the previous year, while FDI increased by almost $2.8 billion to $6 billion over the same period.
Earlier this month, the Financial Times
published a special report: “Investing in Nigeria
.” And while it acknowledges security concerns, criminal activity and internal divisions in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), there is much to lure domestic and foreign investors. From 2000 to 2012, GDP per capita doubled from $1,400 to $2,800. Over the same period, GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) almost grew three-fold from $170 billion to $451 billion. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed to investing up to $3 billion over the next five years in energy infrastructure in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania—priority countries in President Barack Obama’s “Power Africa” initiative. AfDB president Donald Kaberuka said in July that the financial injection “will leverage at least four times more investments in the energy sector.”
“The billions of dollars available for investment in the energy sector will translate into actual bulbs in people’s homes and electricity necessary to grow small businesses if state utilities run efficiently and effectively,” Kaberuka said, adding that government policy and regulatory reforms would “facilitate and enhance cross-border energy markets.” In Nigeria, part of that policy shift has been to avoid the issue of inefficient state-run utilities by privatizing the energy infrastructure. Last month, President Jonathan transferred control of 15 state-run electricity generation and distribution companies to the private sector, asserting that “things can only get better from this point onwards.”
HOW MUCH INVESTMENT WILL BE SUSTAINABLE?
In July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a technical note on Nigeria’s monetary management, recommending that the CBN “make concerted efforts to strengthen financial infrastructure that promote banks lending to the private sector, but it remains to be seen if the tenets of sustainable finance will be enforced. Environmentalists are concerned on this point, considering that Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter and the world’s 10th largest oil producer.
But oil export revenue accounts for only 15 percent of GDP; agriculture is the largest contributor at 40 percent. Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NAG) in June, Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Adewunmi Adeshina urged agricultural sector stakeholders to advocate policies that promote sustainable investment, noting that in the previous 18 months, $8 billion of private sector investment from local and multinational companies has been committed to Nigeria’s agriculture industry.
It is becoming increasing clear to politicians, bankers, investors and business leaders in the region that sustainable investing is smart investing. In a 2011 brief, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) reported on a “growing awareness” that sustainable investment in Sub-Saharan Africa “can play an essential part in tackling the social and economic challenges in the region—and that the resulting economic growth will benefit investors over the long term.” At the end of 2010, ESG-profiled funds including self-reported integration of ESG factors into fund investment policy in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria was estimated at $125 billion in assets under management (AuM). The IFC pointed out that “the relative size of the overall Sub-Saharan African sustainable investment market ranks ahead of markets such as the United States and Brazil.”
SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS NEED TEETH TO STICK
One of every six people on the African continent lives in Nigeria. And one of the goals of the nation’s Vision 20:2020 plan is to make sure that each of those citizens has a minimum annual income of $4,000, driving a minimum GDP of $900 billion. It’s a bold goal. But the question still remains: How much of that growth will be fueled by mechanisms that adhere to the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles?
Anne Stubert, a senior consultant at Corporate Citizenship, said that the challenge is compliance: “In the years to come, it will be critical to demonstrate that the Principles ‘have teeth.’” She also noted the influence that the Principles could have beyond banking, saying that the “successful implementation of the Principles will have a significant impact not only on the sustainability of the Nigerian banking sector, but also on the industry sectors of oil and gas, power and agriculture, guided by the Principles’ sector policies.” 
“Within Africa, we have the solution to our problems,” said Kaberuka at the BBC-moderated Presidential Roundtable Discussion at the 19th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES), held last month in Abuja. ”Nigeria alone has 20 percent of the population in Africa. By the year 2050, Africa will represent 20 per cent of the population of the world. The markets are here. By 2050, there will be two billion persons on the continent, more than China, more than India. And we would want them to be consumers of our products.”
Will those products be sustainable? Will they be built through sustainable finance? Stubert asserted that the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles could “pave the way for sustainability and responsible business practice” on a larger scale. As lawmakers and bankers seek to strengthen the nation’s sustainable investment climate, they might fuel their determination with a Nigerian proverb: “Our examples are like seeds on a windy day, they spread far and wide.” Here’s hoping for wind in the forecast of the new Nigeria.
 City Mayors. The world’s fastest growing cities
 Wendy Sherman. Remarks for Under Secretary Sherman at the United States-Nigeria Binational Commission Regional Security Cooperation Working Group Opening Session. United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria. August 15, 2013. http://nigeria.usembassy.gov/bnc-speeches_08152013.html
. Accessed October 23, 2013.
Reynard Loki is a Justmeans staff writer for Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. A co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio, he maintains the blog 13.7 Billion Years and is a contributing author of the publication “Biomes and Ecosystems,” a comprehensive reference encyclopedia of the Earth’s key biological and geographic classifications, published in 2013 by Salem Press.
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