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Opening Address

28 February 2011 At the 2011 Standard Bank West Africa Investors' Conference holding at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos.

By Mr. Atedo N. A. Peterside oon
Chairman, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this Investors’ Conference.

As many of you may be aware, this is the second Investors’ Conference organised by Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, a member of the Standard Bank Group. The success of the inaugural Conference held in March 2010, and the positive feedback we got from attendees to that event, convinced us to try and make this a Permanent Annual Fixture as the Investors' First Choice Conference in and on West Africa.

We believe that the feedback from the last conference has also enabled us to introduce some enhancements to this Conference, the most obvious of which are increased meeting times with corporates and the inclusion of other regional corporates and regulators.

The focus of the Conference remains the capital market. With the various spectres of recoveries experienced in numerous markets of the world in 2010, investment managers have been cautiously enhancing their exposures to the different markets, with the frontier markets getting increasing attention.

Despite the positive performances of some of the capital markets, doubts over a double dip recession still pervaded many Investment Committee meetings. Another interesting addition to the melee was the political angle and the changing macroeconomic landscapes. So much has changed in 12 months. Think about the Ivorian political crisis, the successful "Jasmine" revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt, and the audible sounds of a possible revolution in Libya. Add to this the referendum for secession in South Sudan; the discovery and eventual pumping of the first barrel of crude oil in Ghana, and of course, the creation of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the conclusion of party primaries in Nigeria which are preparatory to elections in April 2011.

These events are all significant and either pump up or dampen the adrenalin of institutional investors.

This Conference provides you an excellent opportunity to meet with and compare notes with other relevant stakeholders who are all eager to review the investment opportunities and risks that currently pervade African and, more specifically, West African economies.

With specific reference to Nigeria, a few of the Conference attendees who arrived in Lagos early have already asked me about my personal views regarding the likelihood that recent political developments in North Africa can have some spillover/demonstration effect in Nigeria. The answer I gave them privately is the same one that I will now make public.

I do not hesitate to state that I do not foresee a similar occurrence here in Nigeria, because our circumstances differ vastly. In my opinion, what we are witnessing in North Africa and some countries in the Middle East is essentially a confrontation between angry populations and "sit-tight" autocratic rulers. Yes, we have sections of the population here that are or could get angry, but then our leaders cannot and do not "sit-tight", nor does the system allow them to be truly autocratic.

We have already gotten rid of our own autocratic regimes. These were the Military Governments of Generals Buhari, Babangida and Abacha, which held sway between January 1983 and July 1998. The jury is still out on which of these autocratic regimes trampled most on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and/or did the most to shackle press freedom.

For the avoidance of doubt, it was General Abdulsalam Abubakar's Government (our last Military Regime) which started a political transition programme in July 1998 and concluded it by restoring democracy in May 1999 (i.e. a period of less than one year). On a lighter note, perhaps we should send our own General Abubakar to Egypt to go and teach and guide the current Egyptian Military Government and show them the ropes?

In terms of the adoption of democratic principles, I honestly believe that Ghana and Nigeria (under President Goodluck Jonathan) are ahead of the Maghreb countries on the learning curve. Our political leaders aspire to take their turn, but are no longer naïve enough to believe that any one of them can rule the nation in perpetuity. If nothing else, the certainty that leaders must exit at some predetermined date, instils a measure of confidence that peaceful change is certainly possible and that we (the populace) can influence the direction of that change.

Interestingly, it was during the rein of the autocratic military regimes in Nigeria between 1983 and mid-1998 that the decay in our electricity infrastructure accelerated, as they allocated more and more of our scarce resources to the Defence Budget and neglected to invest in our electricity infrastrucure, while also failing to reform the sector by breaking the monopoly of the Government owned Power Holding Company of Nigeria in that sector.

Suffice to say that these Military Governments presided over an infamous "lost decade" in terms of economic achievement. Under their stewardship, Nigeria's per capita GDP towards the end of the 1990s fell to below 1980 levels.

Many seeds of discontent were planted during this repressive era, including those seeds which eventually led to an escalation of the  Niger Delta Militancy problem after the turn of the century.

Today, Nigeria is still grappling with a large chunk of the fallout from the poor economic and political decisions that were taken by those autocratic regimes. The good news however is that our economy is currently one of the fastest growing in the world and we are no longer threatened by a collapse of our banking sector. I leave you to imagine what growth rates our economy could therefore attain when we finally fix our infrastructure as President Goodluck Jonathan's Government is currently trying to do.

Before I conclude, I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Keynote Speaker for this session - Ms Arunma Oteh, the Director General of the Securities & Exchange Commission for gracing this event. As the apex regulator for the Nigerian capital market, I am confident that she will address virtually all the concerns that investors have about our market, and give you an excellent summary of the various on-going efforts towards making Nigeria’s capital market a world class one. You will also have the opportunity of meeting with Ms Oteh during the Cocktail Party that is taking place later this evening.

My appreciation also goes to all the Speakers at this Conference:- Mr Mustapha Chike-Obi, the CEO of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria; Mr Emmanuel Ikhazobor, the Interim Administrator of The Nigerian Stock Exchange; Mr Ekow Afedzie, the Deputy Managing Director of the Ghana Stock Exchange; Alhaji Aliko Dangote CON, the President of the Dangote Group of Companies; and Mr Kwame Pianim, the Chairman of Bharti Airtel Ghana.

To our investor friends from outside of Nigeria, and our local investors, we thank you for attending this Conference and we wish you very successful deliberations.

Please feel free to access the Stanbic IBTC Research Reports which are freely available and engage with our award winning research analysts, as well as our equities brokerage specialists, who organised this Conference, and are available to make your participation as hitch-free as possible.

I thank you for your attention.