Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele has said the restriction of foreign exchange access for 41 items has led to massive foreign capital inflow. Inaugurating Unilever Nigeria’s 10 million Euros Blueband factory in Agbara, Ogun State, yesterday, Emefiele said that global confidence in the economy was rising, with investors finding
Nigeria’s market irresistible. Emefiele said the economy was witnessing positive feedback from foreign investors who are seeing great potentials in it. “We are singing positive songs. We have seen growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation has dropped while we continue to take impressive steps to strengthen the economy,” he said.
The CBN boss also said foreign exchange reserves had climbed nearly three-year high at $38.2 billion, as more investors key into the opportunities presented by the Investors’ & Exporters Forex Window created in April. The foreign reserve rose to current position from its low of $23 billion in October 2016. He said the I&E Forex window has attracted over $10 billion investment inflows since inception.
Emefiele described the factory as part of the feedback from foreign investors whom he had encouraged to begin production in the country to create jobs and empower the people. He said Nigeria cannot continue to create jobs in other countries, and shutting down local factories, as is the case when local raw materials that should be produced locally are imported. The CBN boss was “very delighted” by the project. He said: “Nearly two years ago, we restricted forex access for 41 items and we were criticised. Before that time, Unilever had a factory producing Blueband Magarine which was also part of the 41 items.
And the managing director and the entire management team visited me in Abuja, asking that we grant the company some forbearance and I said there was not going to be any forbearance.” “But they promised to re-establish that factory in Nigeria because the factory was dismantled in Nigeria and taken to another country. And he made a promise that within 12 to 18 months it will re-establish the factory in Nigeria. And based on that, we granted them some form of forbearance that made them to be able to import into Nigeria. But we were discussing. The managing director, Unilever Nigeria Plc., Yaw Nsarkoh, is a man of his word and that is why we are commissioning this factory today”, he added.
Emefiele explained that by re-establishing the factory, the company creates direct jobs for Nigerians and also creates indirect jobs because the company buys palm oil used to produce the product from Nigerians. “By doing that, the company feeds thousands and millions of people. We do not have foreign exchange to import products that can be produced in Nigeria. When they create jobs, they save the country foreign exchange. They are doing 10,000 metric tonnes per annum and promise to raise it to 50,000 metric tonnes per annum later,” he said.
Emefiele said: ”The promise I have made to Unilever and other companies is that if there is any foreign investor that wants to re-establish companies that left the country, we will support them to do so. We are ready to support you because you are going to create jobs for the people. Creating jobs is not just the function of the government; private sector has to also play a major role.” Managing Director, Unilever Nigeria / Ghana, Yaw Nsarkoh, said Unilever is a long-term investor, adding that when other companies were leaving the country, it was busy thinking of boosting its investment. The factory has capacity to produce 10,000 metric tonnes of blueband magarine. There are plans to raise it to 50,000 metric tonnes. “We are building a competitive ecosystem. We want to empower Nigeria’s industrial base,” Nsarkoh said.