President Bola Tinubu on Monday had audience, with Chairman of Bhanti Artel Worldwide,. Sunil Bharti Mittal, in company of Chief Executive Officer Airtel Nigeria Dr. Segun Ogunsanya, and other members of board.
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye (Abuja), Chinenye Anuforo and Johnson Adebowale
Chairman of Bharti Airtel Worldwide, Sunil Bharti Mittal, has hailed President Bola Tinubu administration’s decision to eliminate the multiple foreign exchange rates and introduce a unified exchange rate in the country instead.
President Tinubu, had on May 29, in his inauguration speech, hinted he will collase the multiple Exchange Rates and replace it with a Unified Exchange Rate.
Mittal while speaking with State House Correspondents after meeting with President Tinubu at the presidential villa, praised his quick actions in addressing the lack of easy access to foreign exchange, describing it as a wish come true for investors.
According to him, the long-standing issue has been a challenge for foreign investors, saying the decision will now unleash foreign investments in the country.
He regretted that lack of easy access to foreign exchange had prevented the company from importing critical equipment needed for its operation in the country.
According to him, the international community has applauded naira devaluation and investors are now ready to come into the country.
“One of the key changes that His Excellency, the President, has made in the first few days of his tenure, has been making Naira free float unto the market, letting the market decide, as opposed to CBN’s very …four or five exchange rates, which was very difficult to navigate for companies like ourselves and many others.
“As you’ve all seen, the Naira has devalued, but the worldwide markets have given standing ovations to this move and the dollar bonds have strengthen in Nigeria and generally there’s excitement in investing and companies who are going to be coming to put their bases here in Nigeria.”
Mittal, who said his company had invested almost $4 billion in Nigeria in the last ten years, also disclosed that Airtel has projected that its annual investment would go up to about $700 million annually in the next three to four years, in the face of its 5G role out in the country.
“We’re already investing about $400 million a year, which has been going on for the last many years, of course that will continue, that is business as usual.
“On top of that, to roll out the 5G and more fiber into the ground and data centres, will require more $700 million to get to that outcome. So while there is no exact number I can give you, but all I can tell you is $400 million is what we generally invest every year.
“With 5G, the investment is only going to go up for the next two or three years, before it comes back to the same $350, $450 million a year and we have invested just under $4 billion since the time we have come into Nigeria”, he said.
Mittal, who was accompanied to the Villa by other senior officials of the company, including the Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Africa Limited, Segun Ogunsanya, also noted that the Tinubu administration had shown commitment to removing Nigerians from poverty and Nigeria’s potential to leverage digital infrastructure for the benefit of its citizens.
“I also saw this President’s deep commitment to removing poverty. I come from a country, India, where we also have decades of poverty, which has been rapidly minimized and eradicated in some parts, through intervention of massive infrastructure investment, massive digital ecosystem creation and using the digital infrastructure to provide services by the government to its citizens, be that direct benefit transfer in the form of cash in the hands of people, biometric-based banking transactions, biometric-based health services.
“During the COVID time, India, as you know, through the biometric, could ensure that every citizen of the country was inoculated and vaccinated and these things that the technology can offer and more, are no fully on display in India and available to its friendly countries in Africa, like Nigeria”, he said.
The Airtel Chairman also highlighted the upcoming G20 Summit in India, where he will present recommendations to enhance trade between African countries using local currencies.