Sovereign wealth funds: Can Orji build a Temasek in Nigeria?
Uche Orji is approaching 10 years as head of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, a sophisticated institution segregated into three very different funds. Covid spurred a year of outstanding market returns, but now Orji’s focus is on domestic infrastructure before he steps down next year.
Uche Orji was 14 years into a successful international banking career when the call came. Then a managing director-level analyst at UBS Securities in New York, with successful spells at JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs Asset Management in London under his belt, Orji had not been back to his native Nigeria for 17 years when a headhunter phoned and said: “You should submit your CV. I think you should take this seriously.”
The role at hand was managing director and chief executive of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the African country’s sovereign wealth fund. Nigeria then, as now, had a certain reputation around governance and institutional mistrust, but Orji was encouraged by the conduct of the interview process marshalled by KPMG.
“When I came to the interview, I knew no one in the system, called no one, did an interview and left the same night back to New York,” he recalls, on a video call from Abuja. “I was an analyst and it was earnings season, so I had to get back to work.” When he was offered the job, he was surprised.