- We must grow what we eat, consume what we produce
Dike Onwuamaeze and Chris Uba
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared open the 2019 Lagos International Trade Fair (LITF), organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), with a call on Nigerians to patronise Made-in-Nigeria products and services.
The president, who was represented by the Minister of State for Industries, Trade and Investment, Marian Katagum, said: “I want to use this opportunity to reiterate my call to Nigerians to patronise Made- in-Nigeria products and services. We must accept our new reality of promoting home made products as it is evident that this is where our vision of new Nigeria will be relied.
“That is why I confidently emphasise that we must be a nation that grows what we eat and consume what we produce. This has led to nationwide agro awakening as our most viable option for economic diversification as a nation.”
He stated that the economic focus of his administration was to diversify from mono-product economy to non-oil sector by using the private sector as an arrow head.
“To achieve this, my administration has made concerted efforts at expanding the Export Expansion Grant (EEG), which is often given to deserving exporters while using the Bank of Industry (BoI) as a tool to promoting the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) guarantee scheme in an effort toward encouraging the growth of the SMEs subsectors.”
President Buhari also commended the LCCI for its consistency in organising the fair, which brought participants from inside and outside the country.
He also praised the resilience of the participants, especially the SMEs, whose commitment to the annual event has remained undaunted.
He said: “Trade fairs of this nature are vital economic tools for the realisation of my administration’s economic agenda for industrial upgrade and economic development of the country. This may not only enhance business confidence but may also lead to great foreign direct investment into the country.
“I have no doubt that the focal objective of this fair include showcasing of new products from our indigenous industries which will bring together wholesalers, manufacturers and consumers from all over the world to trade in a most robust manner while connecting businesses and creating value for the growth of the nation.
“Let me reiterate here that the task of transforming Nigeria into an industrial giant and ensure an inclusive and sustainable path of job creation economic development cannot be achieved without the participation of the private sector.
“My government, therefore, welcomes all good-intended efforts like yours and others from the private sector in helping to positively change the narrative by holding hands with the private sector in this patriotic drive.”
Buhari noted that the increasing number of unemployed youths vis-à-vis the unavailability of white collar jobs had made entrepreneurship development a viable platform to empower these job seekers and economically empower them.
“This has encouraged the Ministry of Industry to continue to push for the development of policies and initiatives that would engender conducive business environment.
“Strengthening of the micro and small enterprises, which form the bulk of participants in this fair, can lead to great utilisation of local raw materials and capacity utilisation, encouragement of rural development and building the capacity of business entrepreneurs.
“It is also pertinent to mention that the vast majority of developing and developed countries rely mainly on the dynamism and resourcefulness and risk taking of the SMEs to kick start bankable projects for sustained economic growth.
“The resolve of this administration is to leverage on this ideal. The federal government is fully alive to its mandate of providing systems that will guarantee growth of SMEs in ensuring that their products meet acceptable global standards,” he stressed.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his Deputy Governor, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, noted that the 33rd annual LITF with the theme “Connecting Businesses and Creating Value”, is one the best in Africa “as most businesses at home and abroad look forward to the LITF as a great opportunity to market their goods and services.”
The governor added: “Such is the potency of the platform that the LITF has been providing over the years. It is commendable that the LCCI has been consistently providing major marketing support for networking and public advocacy.
“Let me then assure the LCCI and the business community that the Lagos State Government will continue to be your partner in progress and ensure that the business environment is made more conducive for businesses and investments to thrive. Our commitment to promoting inter border business remains unshaken. We shall leave no stone unturned in making the state a truly 21st century economy that support the growth of the local economy through the improved ease of doing business.
“Our aim is to be Africa’s mega city and a melting pot for business and industrial activities in this sub-region. We will not rest until our state is transformed to meet the expectation of business.”
The President of LCCI, Mr. Babatunde Paul Ruwase, said that the theme of the LITF underscored the importance of business in promoting the citizens’ welfare.
Ruwase added: “The force of globalisation has underscored the need to connect business as business linkages represent one of the best ways for SME’s to realise their competitiveness and acquire access to international market, finance, technology, management and specialised knowledge.
“Trade fairs create avenues for businesses and service providers and end users to meet and facilitate trade. This year’s trade fair is different from different ones with the creation of a special hall for exhibitors from other African nations. We are committed to ensuring that business environment is enabling for all actors.”
In her goodwill message, the National President of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture, Saratu Iya Aliyu, said the LITF had grown in leaps and bounds to become a leading forum for enabling economic interactions between the Nigerian private sector and the rest of the world. “The LCCI has evolved a distinctive way of attracting manufacturers, suppliers and dealers in a wide set of goods and services as well as facilities for investments and trade promotion”, he added.
Aliyu called on governments in the country to promote good infrastructure, pointing out that “without infrastructure, industrial activities will not happen and without industrialisation there will be no development.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria, Mr. Kikuta Yutaka, said the LITF, “is a symbol of the strong ties between Nigeria and the international community,” adding that “international investment is essential for the development of every country’s economy.”
The Ethiopian Ambassador to Nigeria, Azanaw Tadesse Abreha, said that the LITF was the biggest in Africa that offered business people an opportunity to promote their potential.