Dr Nicky Okoye
This is the industry where I made a name for myself. You can say I cut my teeth in the Trade and Investment industry. It is safe to say that everything I am today, everything I say and everything I do and all the respect and influence I have been able to muster is because somewhere a long time ago I choose to become an investment banker, a financial consultant and I was given rare opportunity to serve with one of the most reputable Investment Banks in the World, a bank called MERRILL LYNCH. I worked from their Boston Office as a Financial Consultant. While I worked at Merrill Lynch I was exposed to a whole new world of international finance which I did not know existed and I marveled at how Nations raised money to fund projects using Merrill Lynch and other Investment Banks like us. I worked at the Merrill Lynch regional head office for the North East which was in Boston, USA area, situated at number One Financial Centre in Boston, I met a lot of entrepreneurs who got second stage funding and became internet billionaires, they used to come through our office almost on a daily basis. I learnt a lot, I was exposed to a lot and so decided that I could not just stay in the United States with all this knowledge, I felt that my country Nigeria needed to benefit from my experience and learning. That is the reason I decided to come home to Nigeria and make my own contribution to Nation Building. How I actually came home, broke into Nigerian society and got a position in which I could make a difference is a different story for another day. However, all I can say for now is that, President Obasanjo had a lot to do with my eventual coming home, introducing me to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which even though it was a private institution, took the President’s recommendation and placed me as its first ever Chief Strategy Officer, and Technical Adviser to the Director General/ Chief Executive Officer. My CEO gave me the free hand to redesign the operating and structural environment at the Nigerian Stock Exchange to better position the Nigerian Capital Markets for attracting local and international investment. And by God it worked.
Before I go into how we can currently structure and implement key reforms in the Trade and investment industries and attract the kind of investment that will completely revolutionize this country, let me first of all define the Trade and investment industry for the benefit of those that may not understand it.
Trade: is referred to the exchange of goods and services within an economy. It is further divided into domestic trade and international trade. Local or domestic trade is captured by the retail and wholesale markets. Whereas international trade is subdivided into importation and exportation. Import is when we buy goods and services from other countries and export is when we sell our goods and services to customers in other countries. Now these definitions seem simple enough but it can get very complicated if we go deeper into the issues and the structures that surround trade whether local or international. For instance, countries around the world look to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to regulate tariffs and support smooth trade relations between Nations. However due to the imbalance and the fact that every Nation around the world (except maybe the African Nations with our share of unserious Leaders) knows that Trade is directly tied to jobs growth. Rich developed Nations like to dominate the trade routes and take substantive positions in international trade such that they crowd the smaller nations out. This is effectively the practice at WTO and that is why most of the positions of African Countries never gets passed whereas the liberalization agenda of the Western Nations which swept through the World in the seventies and eighties won support all over the world and opened poor nations to trade dumping from Western Nations especially for goods and services that they could not afford. I will talk about the third World debt crisis on a different day, but the trade policies of the Western Nation gave rise to the Third World debt crisis which impoverished many African Nations including Nigeria.
It is very important to understand the international dynamics of trade policies, tariff regimes and trading rules as these affect the ability of Nations to create jobs, build sustainable economic development models for their countries as well as provide a higher standard of living for their citizens.