'Diversifying the economy away from oil is the most important thing'.

Author:Yedder, Omar Ben
Position:Company overview - Interview
 
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Okechukwu Enelamah (pictured, right) was a surprise choice when nominated as Minister for Trade and Investment in Nigeria. Hand-picked by VP Yemi Osinbajo, he heads a ministry at the heart of job creation and economic diversification. "Okey", as he is known, was chosen for his private sector experience, having worked at a number of international banks, including Goldman Sachs, and having founded one of Nigeria's largest private equity groups, African Capital Alliance. Last month, the government released its much awaited Economic Growth and Recovery Plan. He spoke to Omar Ben Yedder and Parselelo Kantai

NA: How has it been, moving from the private sector to the public sector, sitting on the other side of the fence?

Minister Enelamah: If you know Nigeria well, you know that a lot of us nave all kinds of aspirations for our country, all kinds of ambitions. We think that if the leadership of the country were more competent, had better character, more integrity and so on, that the country would be in a much, much better place. So it's quite humbling when you are asked to become part of that leadership. [I'd thought] Why can't I be part of the generation that can fix Nigeria? So there's a part of me that has always aspired to be part of the reform team, to reform the country for better on a sustainable basis.

So the way I look at it, being in public service is an opportunity. I'm not a politician; I wasn't going to contest for a political position. But I must say that having come in, it is extremely challenging in the sense that it takes more than one individual to fix a country. There's a lot of negotiating and engaging of your colleagues and also having to persuade people on what you think and also to listen to them. But overall it's been a good experience so far.

Obviously I'm not just here for the experience; if we get the results we seek, which is a better country, a transformed country, a country where the economy is stronger, I will be satisfied. Eventually, I intend to return to the private sector.

The state of Nigeria's economy at the moment has been a matter of concern and debate, but you recently came out with an economic stimulus programme: could you outline what the roadmap is? Let me start by explaining "why the roadmap" before saying what it is. When we got in I think it was clear from the president's vision and agenda that there were three things uppermost in his mind and in the minds of Nigerians in electing him as president. One was security across the length and breadth of Nigeria. The second was the issue of governance and fighting corruption and fighting it in a meaningful way. The third was the economy: how to both diversify and restore it, because, really, there were already difficulties by the time we arrived.

The ministers and the economic team went to work doing various things, both short term and medium term. What was clear was there was no roadmap that Nigeria and the stakeholders in Nigeria, or the international community for that matter, could...

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