The annual LCCI International Investment Conference, which usually precedes the annual International Trade Fair held in Lagos, came up on Thursday, November 2, 2017. The theme of this year’s Conference, “Promoting Industrialization for economic recovery and sustainable growth”, is geared towards postulating on what should be done to sustain the gains made with Nigeria coming out of economic recession towards the end of the second quarter of 2017. The main sustaining factor will be the making investments in Nigeria attractive by improving the business environment to both domestic and international investors to encourage them to invest in the Nigerian economy to boost it back to the path of growth.
In his goodwill message at the event, Hon. Prince Rotimi Ogunleye, Lagos State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, observed that, our inability to develop other sectors our economy but only dependent on the oil sector, has slowed down our economic growth, as well as stagnated our export potentials in other sectors. Nigeria, he observed that the rating of Nigeria on the list of companies with ease of doing business from 169 to 145. This feat, he explained, was basically due to the efforts of Lagos State, because, the statistics used in deciding the rating were gathered from Lagos and Kano States, the two States with the highest number of industries in Nigeria.
The Commissioner gave the assurance that, Lagos State is making efforts to create a 24/7 economic environment by lighting up Lagos 24/7 and this, it plans to achieve by generating an additional 3,000 Megawatts of electricity, through the Embedded Power Project, to add to the about 1,000 Megawatts that the State receives from the national grid. He also mentioned the massive road constructions going on in the State. All of these , he assured, will make the manufacturers to rest their generators as well as carry out their business in a more conducive environment.
Hajia Ladi Katagum, Director, State Coordination, Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, NIPC, on her part, stated that, NIPC will continue to support the investors for the sustainable growth of Investment in Nigeria.
Mrs Eme Essien, Country Manager, International Finance Corporation, IFC, maintained that Nigeria should be in a position to be the in ‘Problem solving and execution mode’, to resolve our issues, as we are projected to be the third largest country in population, after China and India, by 2050, which is not far from now! In this wise, she posited, there is the need for collaboration among all the stakeholders in all the States of the Federation, to explore the large expanse of land and the abundance of natural resources, for investments to grow and also to generate employment.
Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, the hon. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, was ably represented by the Assistant Director, Investment Promotion department of the Ministry, Mr. Olajide Adesuyi Bamidele. He stated that the government has banned the importation of some goods that can be produced in Nigeria to encourage Nigerians to invest in them, while providing enabling environment to do business in the country. He expressed hope that, the deliberations at the Conference will generate robust ideas which government can apply to encourage investment and industrialization, to shore up the economy of Nigeria.
The first session of the Conference commenced with Akin Olusoji Akinyele, peaking on the topic, “Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council: Economic recovery and growth plan: Impact on industrialization”. He presented the paper on behalf of Dr. Mrs. Jumoke Oduwole, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment/Secretary to the PEBEC in the office of the Vice President of Nigeria. He dwelt on the improvement of Nigeria’s rating from 169 to 145 on the list of countries doing business with ease, within one year. This, he said, was made possible with the reforms made by government in such areas as the Corporate affairs Commission, CAC, which can enables registrations to be made online, with electronic stamping of documents, thus, saving time and costs. He stated that things are now made more transparent and tax payments too are also made easier through electronic filing of returns and payment online.
A panel of discussion, moderated by Dr. Ayo Teriba, CEO, Economic Associates Limited, observed that other areas that need urgent improvement, to raise the bar in making the environment conducive for investors, include power generation and distribution, access to funding, especially by SME’s and the reduction of interest rates on loans to a single digit.
The second paper of the conference, titled, “Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan: The role of innovation”, was delivered by Jean Bakole, UNIDO representative to ECOWAS and Regional Office Hub. jean is of the view that innovation is a driving force of development, especially, in new products and new processes. “Imitation of innovation can be of great help”, he observed.
He stated that China, after imitating products of other countries, decided to innovate to improve on quality, thus, making it one of the top 5 economies in the world today. Nigeria can take a cue from this, he reiterated. He stated that, there is the need for Nigeria to go the way of Ethiopia, where you find more Universities and Institutes of Technology, to train young ones in advance, so they can manage tech innovation, when it arrives. Jean Bakole, particularly, solicited for support for ICT Incubators in Nigeria to encourage innovation, which drives development for the sustenance of Nigeria. He also recommended the solving of our power issues, ease access to funding and credit, development of special economic zones , as well as support SMEs, so that foreign investors can collaborate with them.
The panel of discussion that followed Jean Bakole’s presentation, was moderated by Rotimi Oyekanmi, President, Venture Capital Association of Nigeria. Some of the points raised by the panelists, which have not been raised before, include, adding Innovation and Creativity to school curriculum, strengthening our research organizations, improvement of skills, transparency and measurement of progress.
The Conference ended with a vote of thanks delivered by Mrs Toki Mabogunje, Vice-President of LCCI. It is hoped that some of the recommendations from this Conference will be implemented to further change the way business is done in Nigeria for the better.