Nigerians across the globe gathered in London on 26-28 July to deliberate on the state of affairs in their home country and how to better contribute to its development.
The Nigerian Diaspora Global Development Conference 2018, the first of its kind, brought together government officials and business leaders from Nigeria and the country’s nationals living abroad.
Under the theme “Supporting the Development Roadmap for Nigeria”, the 3-day event looked at the challenges confronting the country and identified areas needing the intervention of the Diaspora.
In his opening speech, Hon. Kenneth Gbandi, chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE), hosts of the Conference, said London 2018 provided a “platform for serious engagement and collaboration with a focus on how to pool the Diaspora resources towards the development of Nigeria”.
Ambassador Joseph Ayalogu, former Nigerian envoy to Switzerland and permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, spoke about the dynamism of the Nigerian economy and the opportunities it offers for Diaspora engagement.
Other diplomats who spoke at the conference opening included HE Gen Godwin George Umo (rtd.), Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See, and HE Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, Ambassador to Germany.
During a panel discussion, Dr Osoka Agu, CEO of Biosec Solutions, and Dr Alistair Soyode, CEO, BEN Television London, spoke on the important role of technological know-how transfer in driving Nigeria’s economic development.
Dr John George, chairman of Rotex Group, spoke about his experiences doing business in Nigeria and he offered invaluable tips to Nigerians abroad planning to invest in their home country. Esther Onolememen, president of the Sickle Cell Society Ireland/Nigeria, talked about the activities of her organisation in providing advice and support to families in Nigeria.
Several real estate companies in Nigeria participated at the Conference, exhibiting their ongoing projects and how Nigerians abroad can invest in them.
Among those who spoke at the session dedicated to investing in property in Nigeria were Dr Kennedy Okonkwo, CEO, NedcomOaks Limited; Mr Mustapha Njie, CEO, TAF Africa Global; Mr Edward Akinlade, SURU Homes Limited; and a representative of Mr Olayinka Braimoh, CEO, Hall 7.
The real estate operators talked at length on their experiences doing business in Nigeria and the emphasis on sustainability in their projects.
The highlight of the second day of the conference was the launch of the €200 million, NIDO-led Diaspora Housing Investment Fund. Roland Igbinoba, CEO of Pison Housing Company, the lead manager of the Fund, spoke on how Nigerians abroad can invest in the scheme. Investment in the Fund could be for the purpose of growing capital or towards home ownership or both.
Mr Ike Onyia, CEO, FBNQuest Asset Management, who spoke on ‘Maximizing investment returns on Diaspora remittances’, brilliantly highlighted the opportunities for investment in different products offered by his company.
Femi Awoniyi, Publisher, The African Courier and Director, Nigerian Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria, spoke on how the Diaspora could play an important role in the management of irregular migration due to its enormous costs to the country.
Another major highlight of the conference was the flag-off of the Diaspora Enrolment in the Nigerian National Identity Management System. The exercise will enable the registration of all Nigerians outside the shores of the country, providing the much needed data for Diaspora voting, economic and development planning and pooling the huge Diaspora human resources.
The 3-day Conference was rounded with a Gala Night on Saturday, 28 July at which 100 persons were inducted into the Nigerian Diaspora Global Hall of Fame.
The Nigerian Diaspora Global Development Conference 2018 proved to be a veritable forum for serious and practical dialogue on increased Diaspora engagement in national development. Kudos to NIDOE and its executive council led by Hon Kenneth Gbandi for a job well done! // Femi Awoniyi