The Managing Director of the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), Mr. Tony Okpanachi, has enumerated a number of policy actions that Nigeria needs to take to develop the economy by increasing its level of trade with other African countries.
Delivering a paper on Monday in Kaduna on the topic, “Unlocking Nigeria’s Economic Potential through Regional Integration”, at the ongoing 41st Kaduna International Trade Fair, Okpanachi said for regional integration to be beneficial to Nigeria, raising the growth of the private sector was key.
He stated that a strong coordination of reforms and projects which would prepare the country for international trade would be needed for the country to realise the potential benefits of regional integration.
He added that as a matter of priority, Nigeria needed to operationalise existing trade agreements that include provisions to deal with trade barriers and settling trade disputes.
According to him, a key threat for the success of regional integration for Nigeria is predictive trade practices primarily on goods from outside the country.
Okpanachi, noted that tackling such threat would require collective efforts of both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union.
He maintained that the government should implement policies, operational and technical governance and financial interventions to restore the financial viability of the power sector.
While calling for improvement in service delivery and reduction in losses, the DBN boss also harped on the need to adopt right price for electricity.
Okpanachi said: “Since electricity is the highest production cost driver for businesses, both manufacturing and services, electricity tariff for large consumers and strategic sectors should be aligned with the cost of electricity in key peer countries.
“Develop a sustainable financing strategy to upgrade and maintain the quality of the nation’s transportation system, particularly those on the export corridors.
“There is need to enhance technical assistance and capacity building of all relevant MDAs that drive organisational reforms and ease of doing business in the country.
“Resolve issues preventing the full implementation of existing customs cooperation agreements, harmonising data requirements and updating existing bilateral agreements between Nigeria and neighbouring countries to include coordinated border management.
“Update existing policies and measures to address supply side constraints of businesses especially the strategic sector, product and services, sustained agricultural financing incentives and expand investment and financing incentives for mining, manufacturing and service sectors”.
He, however, urged the government to aggressively pursue implementation of mobile money licences for telecom companies and other innovative financial technology (Fintech) solutions.
According to him, the world had started embracing fintech way, saying “fintech is the way forward. So it is good for Nigeria to quickly adapt to this innovative Fintech means and as a means of facilitating trade across the borders.”
He added that Nigeria needed to develop its productive capacities across the value chain: in manufacturing, agriculture, services and other industries sectors.
Okpanachi further said: “And finally, we need to deepen access to finance to real sector. Unlocking Nigeria’s economic potential through regional trade is not the responsibility of the government alone, as we have clearly seen.
“It requires a deliberate and cohesive partnership between key stakeholders that influence the enabling environment that accelerates the pace of structural transformation, diversification of our economy; one that enables the country to fully utilise its factor endowment and efficiently compete regionally and globally for its economic development and sustainability.”