By Prince Okafor
Federal Government has committed N1.4 billion to the pre-development phase and N50 billion to stage one development in 2017, for the establishment of six Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Industrial Clusters in the country,
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, who made this known at the 5th edition of the EU-Nigeria business forum, said the Pre-development studies on the six pilot SEZs in Nigeria which would be built to world class standards will commence next month, adding that, “Afreximbank and China Exim Bank have committed $1billion into the project.”
Commenting on the creation of an enabling environment to improve the Ease of Doing Business, EODB, based on a Presidential initiative, he said: “Work has commenced on setting up the structure to support the initiative on the EODB, the supporting secretariat has been set up and is functioning in the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC). Knowledge experts and technical consultants to support the team have been constituted.
“The Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan, NIRP, priorities are agribusiness and the agro-allied sector, auto-assembly and component manufacturing, sugar, food processing (tomato and fruit juice), textiles and garments, palm oil processing and leather and leather products.
“These are the sectors where SMEs are operative. Specific programmes are being implemented at various stages,” he noted.
He also said that the Nigerian trade policy practice on trade negotiations and agreements has been revamped and will be used as an engine for growth in the country.
He stated: “Nigeria shall henceforth use trade negotiations aggressively and ambitiously. Nigeria shall initiate and negotiate strategic free trade agreements (FTAs) with precise objectives, including explicit linkage of access to Nigerian market, for locating industrial investments in Nigeria connected to regional and global value chains”.
He said that he is confident in the innovative capacity of the country as well as the entrepreneurial resourcefulness, adding that, “they can compete with competitors in any economy in the world. But we have to work to give them a context, by improving the domestic business environment, updating and modernizing the platform of the Nigerian economy and eliminating the trade distortions Nigerian products and services face in foreign markets.”
He maintained that, a digital led strategy for growth is central to Nigeria’s plan for diversification and growth.
In his words, “the digital economy provides a platform for the integration of Nigerian SMEs into the Global value chains, with a catapult effect.
“The digital economy in Nigeria is one of the fastest growing in the world. It currently accounts for approximately 10 percent of the GDP. Lagos is the largest commercial city in Africa. The city accommodates some of Africa’s best known tech businesses such as IrokoTV, Hotels.ng, Jobberman, Andela, Balogun market and Truppr.com. Co-Creation Hub (CC Hub) is Nigeria’s leading innovation hub. In the SME ecosystem, entrepreneurial Hubs and business incubation Centers are the future.
“Nigeria technology start-ups and SMEs are being facilitated through internet connectivity, although we require partnerships and assistance to achieve 100 percent broadband coverage of Nigeria rapidly,” he stated.
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By Prince Okafor