Buhari: Trade Central to Poverty Eradication, National Productivity

•Says 10 million MSMEs to access credit at single digit

Ndubuisi Francis and James Emejo in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said trade has remained critical to the country’s economic growth, poverty eradication, building wealth as well as improving foreign reserves and national productivity.

Buhari, said this during the opening of the 17th Abuja International Trade Fair, with theme: “Creating an Export-Ready Market Through SME Digitisation,” that  was organised by the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

This was just as Buhari yesterday approved the appointment of Aminu Umar-Sadiq as the new Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), operators of the nation’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

According to Buhari, trade was crucial for raising standards of living of Nigerians and improving productivity, adding that, “No economy can thrive without robust trade.”

He said the federal government was keen to help MSMEs achieve their full potential, adding that it has developed strategic policy interventions, enshrined laws and established institutions to create a supportive business environment for entrepreneurs and MSMEs.

Represented by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Niyi Adebayo, the president also said the government had developed a programme that would enhance access to credit for over 10 million MSMEs at single digit rate.

He also said the Ministry of Trade had commenced the process of adopting a centralised automated platform for the registration of trademarks, patents and designs with the aim to fully digitise existing records and automate the registration process to enable ownership and commercialisation of innovation.

Buhari noted that the MSME segment remained critical to the stimulation of economic development, pointing out that Nigeria is home to over 40 million MSMEs who together account for about 48 per cent of GDP.

He said, “Many of us just see MSMEs as the Mama that fries akara or the friendly “mallam” that owns the kiosk on our street. That is not the case; some of the fastest growing Fintech start-ups in Africa are, in fact, MSMEs.

“This trade fair provides an opportunity to change the narrative of what MSMEs are and demonstrates how innovative they can be.

“Here present, I see enterprises with the capacity to produce in large quantities. I see enterprises that employ large cross-sections of our youth population. I see enterprises with the capacity to export. I do not see small businesses here; I see future mighty businesses.”

Buhari also said that the federal government had also approved fiscal incentives for MSMEs which includes exemption from Company Income Tax (CIT)and Value Added Tax (VAT) for enterprises with annual turnover of less than N25 million.

He said the pioneer status incentive also grants tax holidays for start-ups across multiple sectors, adding that the federal government in 2016, approved the establishment of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to eliminate bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business.

Also, he noted that the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) had also established a One Stop Investment Center which comprises 27 government agencies.

He said the aim was to significantly reduce the time spent in processing regulatory approvals, provide investment facilitation services and help with company registration and expansion among other incentives and reforms.

Buhari added, “While the federal government is doing its part, we need to rethink our impression that MSMEs are small businesses and focus on how they can be energised as vehicles for economic growth.

“As always, the federal government remains committed to ensuring ease of doing business and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.”

President of ACCI, Dr. Al Mujtaba Abubakar, said over the past decade, the emergence of increasingly powerful digital technologies and digital infrastructures have transformed and continue to transform business processes, organisations, and corporate culture with new innovation processes, marketing models, and types of products/services.

He said this was fast becoming an increasingly central issue for companies and explained why the objective of the fair is to create an export ready market for SMEs.

Abubakar, noted that aside from promoting businesses, the exhibition will also strengthen trade and investment opportunities in the country, thus, offering a neutral and open atmosphere for blue chip companies, trade groups/associations, and government.

He added that since inception, the trade fair had served Nigeria as a trusted global trade destination and a potential market for over 50,000 consumers, and become a global platform, which provides an avenue where business men, entrepreneurs, service providers, and many others converge.

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