CEO, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Dr. Yemi Kale

By Eromosele Abiodun

Nigeria’s current economic situation presents an opportunity to diversify the economy, invest in critical sectors and stimulate growth of the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) space to put the country on the path to sustainable development.
This position was canvassed by stakeholders at the 2016 Standard Bank West Africa Investors’ Conference, with the theme, “Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential…Growth through Diversification.”

Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Mr. Atedo Peterside, in his welcome address, stated that the theme was partly derived from the government’s agenda for broadening revenue sources against the backdrop of lower commodity prices.
“Diversification of the economy has become imperative considering the growing needs of the populace for new jobs and other welfare packages that will help reduce poverty levels,” he said, adding that concerted action is required to drive sustainable economic growth.

On Nigeria’s much debated foreign exchange regime, Peterside said the point to realise is that “economic diversification can only take place meaningfully if new capital investment activity takes place to take maximum advantage of increased domestic competitiveness.”

In his presentation, Statistician General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Dr. Yemi Kale, frowned at the practice of describing the structure of the Nigerian economy in terms of government revenue source.

“True, government revenue is dependent on the oil and gas sector but the economic structure of Nigeria is not solely dependent on oil and gas, albeit an important part. If you look at the recent revised national accounts, it is evident that oil value added has been negative for years now, and in fact it is the non-oil sector that had sustained the economy. This is not to say the oil sector doesn’t have indirect impact on the non-oil economy.”

On diversification of Nigeria’s economy, Kale said: “The economy is relatively diversified. However, almost half of the economy is informal and out of the (fiscal) control of government. Policies aimed at drawing in this huge informal sector into the system must necessarily be deployed at this time if we are to diversify our sources of revenue and achieve a more sustainable structural transformation of our economy.”

Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Mrs. Sola David-Borha, in her closing remarks, reiterated the need for the public and private sectors to work together to tackle the economic headwinds, especially with worrying predictions of imminent job losses and higher unemployment numbers. The need for such partnership underpins the organisation of the annual investors’ conference to avail both local and international investors a platform to glean decisive information with which they can make informed investment decisions.