Interview: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
To what extent has progress in facilitating business procedures translated to investment inflows? Which sectors are being prioritised?
NASIR EL-RUFAI: Kaduna’s performance in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index has been instrumental in attracting investors. Between 2015 and 2021 Kaduna secured investments in excess of $800m. Singaporean agri-business firm Olam International has invested $150m in poultry facilities, while the African Industries Group is investing $600m to build a steel plant that is currently under construction. Moreover, the state has attracted many small-scale and local investments that have amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Companies have committed to investing nearly $2.1bn by 2023, and it is hoped that both local and foreign investors will continue to recognise Kaduna as the preferred destination for investment in Nigeria.
Given Kaduna’s competitive advantages in the sector, one priority is agriculture, as well as agri-business and agro-industry. The state is Nigeria’s largest producer of maize, ginger, soya beans and tomatoes, as well as the second-largest producer of rice. Our focus is not only on improving farmers’ productivity, but on making Kaduna a base for processing and other value-added businesses. Mining is another key sector, as Kaduna is home to significant reserves of minerals, gold, nickel, iron ore and rare metals.
How did Kaduna boost internally generated revenue (IGR), and what strategies are being deployed to further improve this figure?
EL-RUFAI: The Covid-19 pandemic drastically reduced business activity and negatively affected tax collection, but we are still optimistic that we will achieve our 2020 target of N50bn ($133.5m) in 2020. The state has made considerable efforts to streamline the tax collection process, making it more business friendly, transparent and efficient. These measures have already been successful: IGR doubled from N13bn ($34.7m) in 2015 to N26bn ($69.4m) in 2017, and we collected N44bn ($117.5m) in taxes in 2019. This was supported by legislation enacted in 2015 that simplified the process creating one tax agency, the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency. We also collect all taxes electronically. These measures significantly increased our tax revenue without raising taxes. In fact, we lowered tax rates to encourage businesses to invest and waived several taxes for small businesses to help them cope with the pandemic.
What is being done to enhance infrastructure networks in the state, and how will this affect longer-term development?
EL-RUFAI: We developed an infrastructure master plan for the state in June 2019 to help bridge social and physical infrastructure deficits. It focuses on the three cities in which 60% of the state’s population lives: Zaria, Kafanchan and Kaduna. One of the key goals is to improve connectivity between Kaduna and Abuja so that people can work in the capital, but live in Kaduna at a fraction of the cost. Central to infrastructure development is security, which is one of the local government’s main priorities. The state is collaborating closely with federal security agencies to contribute resources and assist in making Kaduna a safe place in which to invest, work and live.
Alongside the ongoing development of physical infrastructure, we are investing in social projects focused on education and health care, and are on the path to achieving universal health coverage for every citizen of Kaduna. Through upgrades in housing, transport, energy systems, green spaces and recreational centres, we will create jobs, improve the welfare of our citizens and make the cost of doing business even lower. The idea is to generate not only favourable investment conditions, but favourable living conditions: you can conduct business in Kaduna while having time for leisure and living a good life.
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