Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah and the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ambassador Roberto Azevedo share ideas on how to actualise Federal Government’s vision of creating enabling environment for investment and trade to thrive
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah has promised that the Federal Government would create enabling environment for investment to thrive and improve trade, export and regulation.
Dr Enelamah made the pledge recently when the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ambassador Roberto Azevedo met with organised private sector on trade and investment in Abuja. He said that despite its economic circumstances, Nigeria would remain fully committed to free international trade. The present administration, the minister promised, would also ensure that policies initiated by past administration were implemented.
Ambassador Azevedo, who was on a one-day visit to Nigeria, said he now has a better understanding of the challenges of the country on trade and investment. He said the private sector would be carried along by the WTO to enable it address the issues. Azevedo advised Nigeria’s private sector to make its voice heard in the current debate about the WTO’s future work.
He expressed delight that Nigeria would continue to work with multilateral organisations. The trade group, he said, would soon start conversations on important issues for the country, including development of small and medium scale enterprises as biggest employers of labour in developing countries. “We want to bring the private sector close so that we can understand the main challenges,” the WTO boss said.
Azevedo said he was in Nigeria to make trade a catalyst to achieving the continent’s development goals. “It seemed appropriate that my first visit to Africa since the success of our Ministerial Conference should be to Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, and a leader in all senses of the word. I want to discuss how the WTO can do more to serve Nigeria,’’ Azevedo said.
According to him, the world governments are struggling with a gloomy economic outlook and a range of challenges to delivering a return to strong growth which Nigeria is no exception.
Before the visit of the WTO director-general, Enelamah had shortly on assumption of office promised that the country was open and ready for business and investment. He said that his ministry was working round the clock to attract and sustain domestic and foreign investment – with a special focus on the non-oil economy – and to remove the barriers to doing business in and with Nigeria.
He said it is important to realise that these are extraordinary times for Nigeria, with an unprecedented transfer of federal power coinciding with one of the most challenging fiscal periods in the country’s recent history. Oil prices, on which we depend for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings, dropped by half in 2014, and are now at their lowest levels in seven years.
Enelamah, however, believes the oil price slump offers the government and people of Nigeria an extraordinary opportunity to break the country’s long-term dependence on oil, and commit to diversifying the economy. “Currently, Nigeria accounts for 2.5 percent of the world’s population, but contributes less than 0.6 percent of global trade. We can certainly do better on this score. We stand to benefit significantly from improving our trade, especially within the ECOWAS region, with other West African countries. We are a nation of traders and entrepreneurs; around the world Nigerians are renowned for their entrepreneurial energy,” he said.
According to the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report, 52.7 percent of Nigeria’s youth population are entrepreneurs, owning new or established businesses. And the most recent Global Entrepreneur Indicator (GEI) survey found that 100 percent of Nigerian respondents signified strong optimism about the country’s economic future, as well as enthusiasm about starting new businesses based on that optimism.
A survey by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2010 found that there were 17.28 million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, collectively accounting for almost half of Nigeria’s GDP; as many as four times what the capital-intensive oil and gas industry contributes to GDP.
Enelamah expressed delight that both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have promised their total support for all initiatives aimed at bringing change with regards to trade and investment. According to him, this entails making it is easy for entrepreneurs, investors, and industries to operate and do business in the country in which the legal system, the banks, and the governments are all working together in favour of the economy. The minister said the fact that in 2016, the Federal Government plans to spend on infrastructure, three times as much as was budgeted in 2015 is a clear message that Nigeria is open and ready for business and investment.