Okechukwu Enelamah

With international confidence in Nigeria on the rise, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment recently held a public Documentary Screening, where it shed light on the processes that led to the country earning a World Bank ranking as one of the world’s 10 most improved economies in the world,Olawale Ajimotokan reports

A consistent pattern occurred last month where international attention turned on Nigeria, when world business leaders and stakeholders, gathered in Abuja for two major global conferences.

The first was the High-Level Policy and Private Sector Trade and Investment Facilitation Forum co-hosted with the ECOWAS Commission, in partnership with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Friends of Investment Facilitation for Development (FIFD).Several trade and investment ministers from African countries and investment experts in the world attended the two-day event.

The second event was the Sixth D-8 Ministerial Meeting on Industrial Cooperation to promote trade in the Nigerian capital, featuring trade ministers from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

The D-8 or the Development 8 nations are mutually cooperating on key areas, including technology, humanitarian development, tourism, transportation, agriculture, rural development, science, finance, banking, energy, environment and health.

The value of inter-trade among the D-8 nations increased from $50 billion in 1997 to $100 billion in 2015.
Apparently, the international confidence in Nigeria is the outcome of the positive World Bank latest report on Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria.

The report rated Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world.

It noted that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and other reforms, including Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), which deployed innovative approaches, improved and leapfrogged Nigeria by 24 places to 145 in ease of doing business.

The World Bank report highlighted the key reforms that made it possible to include starting a business, registering property, securing credit, paying taxes and dealing with construction permit.

Since May 2015, government has embarked on intensive policy reforms and initiatives to align the industrial sector with stakeholders driven implementation process, specific deliverables, measurable outcomes and key performance indicators.

The catalyst for the reform process and overall implementing organ for the various policy frameworks around ease of doing business is the Presidential Business Environment Council (PEBEC).
The council was established by the federal government to eliminate bureaucratic and regulatory constraints to doing business in Nigeria.

The reforms championed by PEBEC are implemented by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS) with support from the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBEC).
In February, PEBEC, headed by Vice-President YemiOsinbajo, approved a 60-day National Action Plan on Ease of Doing Business.

The plan implemented by various MDAs, Lagos and Kano State Governments and private sectors stakeholders committed to a set of quick wins and desired outcomes across the priority areas.
The plan focused on making business registration seamless, fully automated with business registrations by Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) now being conducted with 48 hours.

In addition to visa on arrival procedure, it also entailed new immigration procedure and introduction of world standard procedure that included reduction in import documentation requirements from 14 to eight and export documents from 10 to seven, palletisation of imports, advanced cargo manifests and scheduling of joint physical examination anchored by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

In May the federal government signed into law the first Executive Order (E 01) on the Ease of Doing Business and how the order will be monitored, institutionalised, deepened and consolidated.

Reacting to the reforms that led to the country earning a World Bank ranking as one of the world’s 10 most improved economies in the world at the documentary screening, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr.OkechukwuEnelamah, said Nigeria’s economy was being aligned to realise the growth targets in ERGP and diversify the economy away from non-oil economy.

Enalamah, who jointly addressed the stakeholders on wide issues with the Minister of State Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar, described the story on the Ease of Doing Business as encouraging.

He said the federal government was bringing commitment and drive into the economy in several areas like digital economy, the promotion of primary and secondary goods, increasing access to finance and requisite skills for Micro, Small and Medium, Enterprises (MSMEs), Growth and Employment (GEM) project, trade negotiations, tourism and addressing multiple taxations for businesses.

Enalamah said that the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council that is in existence to support government in the formulation of policies that deepen the nation’s industrialisation goal has embarked on initiatives to install 18,000km of fibre optic across the country to improve broad band penetration. The installation of the fibres will promote digital economy.

In addition, the Council will embark on select strategic power projects to deliver an additional 4,200 megawatts of electricity into the national grid.

“ I am confident that the Industrial Council, a high-level council of private sector industrialists that was started a couple of months ago is on its way up, working with the government and the ministry to implement the NIRP. It is making giant strides in the area of power generation and broadband penetration across the country,” Enelamah said.

He described infrastructure as central to the ERGP which explains why large chunk of money is budgeted for infrastructure by government as a priority through deliberate inter-ministerial intervention particularly on the generation of electricity.

“It is important to collaborate with other ministries and I use power as an example. There is lot of effort on going with the economic management and the Industrial Council. The result may look slow, but I totally agree that we must work with other ministries to make sure people get what they need. Also, when we are talking about the issue of tomato, for example, one of the biggest issues with tomato is that even though we don’t produce enough, the much we produce, a lot of it is wasted, that is why in dealing with tomato policy, the whole value chain –haulage, transportation logistics- is a major part of that. That is why must have a task force for doing it. We need better infrastructure to avoid wastage.”

He said the ministry was equally passionate about tourism and has entered into partnership with the Ministry of Information and Culture to promoting the sector.

“The ease of doing business goes together with tourism. When the airports are busy, where the immigration officials are friendly, when the road transport and public transport is available in Nigeria, it will simply make it easier for people and encourage them to continue to come. Even Nigerians in Diaspora will still need to come home often. We need to do more to attract travellers to our borders,” he added.

The Minister of State for Industry and Trade, Mrs. Abubakar rationalised the suggestion that technical centres manned by experts from China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea be built for young technicians to enable their training and by extension the manufacturing of electrical softwares in the country.
She said she was disposed to clustering of the youths who have interest in technical vocation by giving them appropriate training and certification.

“This is something that ITF does, working with NERDC so that proper certifications are given after the appropriate learning time, because we do have a lot of electricians and technicians on the streets, who unfortunately don’t all have the same collaborations. One of the issues which when Industrial Development Centres come up eventually they will be addressed,” she said.