James Emejo in Abuja
The Managing Director/Chief Executive, Ecobank Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, has said the country must adopt global standards infrastructure and business processes if it must take maximise advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which it signed recently.
He said the country must also make calculated efforts to improve the competitiveness of the business environment.
Speaking during a panel discussion on, ‘Capitalising on the Opportunity of the AFCTA,’ specifically on how Nigerian businesses could take advantage of opportunities presented by free trade agreement, he stressed that Nigerians would have to develop the right skills set.
He said the country may be relegated to the background without appropriate skills to seize every opportunity.
Akinwuntan, who chaired the session at the just concluded 25th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, said: “The public discuss would have to change to global standards, not about what we do in Nigeria. We will have to think of Africa as one market as we do in Ecobank.
“Nigerians have a lot of educated people but what is important is skills. The best tillers for instance in the building industry are not Nigerians. So we already know that in terms of free movement of talents and mobility, we have a long way to go.”
The MD stressed that Nigeria must be competitive in power supply in order to guarantee the survival of businesses.
He said: “When we talk about ports, every entry and exit in Nigeria should be favourable for people do do business. That requires a lot of mind-set shift.
“We have serious work to do because our neighbouring ports are more competitive. If you look at the seaports, there are more ships heading to Nigeria waiting on continental shores of Togo rather than Nigeria”
He said the development had implications on commerce, adding that Nigeria must learn French and other widely spoken languages to remain competitive.
He said: “In Ecobank, you write in English, French, Swahili and it’s contingent for the recipient to interpret. So we also have a language issue to deal with.
“We are surrounded by French speaking countries and we can’t speak as much French as they speak English.
“For us at Ecobank we had to embrace shared technology to run our business which is why we can use a card in all 36 countries we are present in Africa. We have one pan African switch.”