By Omololu Ogunmade in London
President Muhammadu BuhariÂ WednesdayÂ in London, encouraged prospective investors in the Nigerian economy to participate in the forthcoming 2018 United Kingdom – Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
The president, who made the appeal while delivering a keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum, a session of the ongoing Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM), with the theme: “Making Business Easier between Commonwealth Countries,” told the forum the efforts his government had made to foster ease of doing business in Nigeria and the attendant results.
According to him, the effectiveness of such efforts was evident in the World Bankâ€™s â€˜Doing Business Report’ published in November last year,Â which saw Nigeria movingÂ up 24 places from its previous ranking.
He also said the development earned the country a recognition as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world.
At the event held behind closed-door, Buhari said more work still needed to be done as the country proceeds to the next stage.
The president, who said industry and labour were always bothered in developing countries by distortion in trade policies, added that if doing business must be made easier among Commonwealth nations, trade wars must be avoided and collective efforts made to promote global trading order and deliberate support of regional initiatives.
He added that business must also be made healthier.
â€œIn developing countries, labour and industry are concerned about distortions in trade policies that result in subsidised products which have contributed to exports dumped in developing economies. These have had bad effects in the form of job losses.
â€œGrowth is not yet inclusive and remains elusive. There are downside risks about disruptions to trade and investment. Global and regional markets have been considerably rattled by the risks of trade wars. Concerns over climate change are unabated and are increasing. There are tasks and duties on all sides.
â€œBut if we are to make business easier between our countries and going beyond the Commonwealth, we must avoid trade wars and work collectively to preserve the global trading order, support regional initiatives as well as support domestic structural reforms that focus on the priorities of individual countries,â€ he said.
Details of the president’s speech contained in a statement by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, reiterated his belief in wealth creation and employment opportunities within the Commonwealth.
â€œIf there is a collective Commonwealth Commitment to the Ease of Doing Business, we shall spur growth, multiply wealth and expand employment opportunities.Â These objectives will be accelerated by trade and investment facilitation,” he added.
Adesina said Buhari identified trade and investment facilitation to generate resources for sustainable development; ease of doing business and regional integration that expands markets with safeguards against injurious trade practices from third parties; more inclusive growth with the empowerment of women and the youth, as factors that are capable of making business among Commonwealth countries easier.
He also said the president identified the provision ofÂ a platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs); radical expansion of human capital for the 21st century, now known as â€œknowledge economyâ€ and provision of hard and software infrastructure for the 21st century digital economy to boost e-commerce, increase efficiency, solve development problems and enhance cyber security as factors necessary for an easier business environment.
According to the statement, the president said Nigeria had already started championing this course with events such as the “High-Level Trade and Investment Facilitation Forum for Development” convened by Nigeria in November 2017 in Abuja in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
It also quoted the president as saying: â€œThe Abuja Statement from this Forum: ‘Deepening Africa’s Integration in the Global Economy through Trade and Investment Facilitation for Development,’ has become a global and multilateral reference point.Â We believe that the Commonwealth should lend its support to these types of activities, as a sound model, for Making Business Easier Amongst Commonwealth Countries.
â€œTo underscore Nigeriaâ€™s commitment to spreading prosperity throughout the Commonwealth, in the past six months, Nigeria co-chaired with the United Kingdom, the ‘UK All-Parliamentary Group for Trade out of Poverty’ (APPG-TOP). The Report of this Commonwealth Inquiry Report was launched on 3rd April, 2018.
â€œNigeria affirms its commitment to the principal message from this Commonwealth Inquiry Group that Nigeria co-chaired with the UK.
“The surest, most sustainable way to lift millions of people out of poverty across the Commonwealth is through boosting trade and investment.
“We believe that, we, as leaders in the Commonwealth, should grasp the opportunity and agree a major new focus on trade and investment for inclusive development.â€
It added that the president also shared the experiences of Nigeria regarding on-going deep and extensive â€˜ease of doing businessâ€™ reforms which are being staged under a 60-day National Action Plan.
â€œStage 1 focuses on eight areas that make it easier to register businesses, obtain construction permits, get credit, pay taxes, have electricity, trade across borders, facilitate entry and exit of people and register property. These reforms were codified in an Executive Order.Â Transparency and efficiency across government was mandated and made enforceable.Â These reforms have resulted in improvements: reduction in cost and time and greater transparency particularly for micro- small and medium sized enterprises.
â€œStage 2 is focused on 11 areas, improving on Stage 1.Â This stage also covers new areas, including contract enforcement, simplifying the procurement process, and trading within Nigeria.Â Action in this and subsequent stages will revolve inter alia, around reputational issues,â€ the president was further quoted as saying.