The Federal Government attracted over N3.7 trillion through the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), from its 51 projects through Public-Private Partnerships in 2017.

Speaking at the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) public lecture in Lagos, over the weekend, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, said that government leveraged on comparative advantage and factor endowments in the commitment to making Nigeria competitive for local production and thereby increasing the contribution of manufacturing to GDP.

Senate
Okechukwu Enelamah

The minister said: “We have stepped up and are aggressively implementing the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) by the establishment of the Nigeria Industrial Policy & Competitiveness Advisory Council (Industrial Council) – comprised of the Government and Private Sector representatives at the highest level. Implementing sectoral policies for areas in which we have comparative advantage – primarily in Agriculture and Petrochemicals. Examples include the National Sugar Master Plan; and the new Tomato Policy approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

“We have commenced the establishment and upgrading of some existing industrial parks to world-class parks; and we are working towards the establishment of special economic zones (SEZs) across the geo-political zones in the country.

“Notably, Micro, Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises contribute almost half of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employ over 80 percent of the country’s labour force. It is fair to say that Nigeria cannot flourish if its MSMEs are floundering. We are therefore making sustained efforts to build capacity, increase access to finance and eliminate bottlenecks to conducting business.

Our enabling environment and ease of doing business efforts are targeting MSMEs specifically,” he said.

Enelamah noted that the inauguration of the National Council on Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (NCMES) to increase our focus on MSMES and boost their development has increased access to finance by providing capital for both start-ups and expansion.

“It is important to point out that through PEBEC’s collaboration with the National Assembly, two important laws to ease access to credit were passed last year. The World Bank funded – Growth and Employment (GEM) Project is focused on supporting businesses in Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Agro-processing, Entertainment, Tourism and Construction. Achievements of the project include more than 89,000 Small and Medium enterprises registered on the BIG portal. Also over 900 Nigerian MSMEs have benefited from grants to implement their business plans; at least 40 local consulting firms trained to deliver technical services to MSMEs.

The minister further explained that over 750 Nigerian MSMEs have benefited from the services of the project’s trained Business Development Services Providers (BDSPs) and over 21,000 Nigerian MSMEs have received technical assistance including training offered by EDC/Lagos Business School.

“The project has supported the entertainment industry ‘by funding two (2) online music distribution companies with a view to reducing piracy and improves the income of content developers in the Music Industry – within the project period at least 200 SMEs will benefit from these services; 400 graduates trained in Video and Sound editing under support to the Entertainment Industry. 600 Nigerians were trained in various artisan skills for the Construction sector to reduce the influx of foreign skilled labour taking Nigerian jobs. The project has so far catalyzed the creation of over 26,000 jobs in the five sectors under its focus.

“It is pertinent to note that large amounts of GEM’s intervention that are aimed at creating jobs are not yet matured; therefore more jobs are expected to be created as this investment/intervention begins to yield results. Arrangements are being made with the World Bank for the expansion of the project”, he said.

In his remark, President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Babatunde Ruwase, said that he is particularly excited about the media occasion because it is about the Nigeria economy and the private sector.

According to him, “We need a strong economy to guarantee security and ease social tension. We therefore should continually emphasize the value of entrepreneurship, enterprise, hard work, professionalism, excellence and integrity in our economic environment. These values are essential for a sustainable wealth creation process, which is economy and entrepreneur.

“It is the entrepreneur that makes things happen in an economy. They are the drivers of the economy and the creators of wealth. An economy can only be as robust as its entrepreneur. Therefore if we must make progress in this economy, our private sector would have to play a major role. The public sector would also have to create the enabling environment. The way forward for our economy is to do everything possible to encourage entrepreneurs and professional. This is the way to go if we must diversify our economy, create more jobs, reduce unemployment, minimize criminality and above all, advance the welfare of our people.

The Director-General, Industrial Training Fund (IFT), Sir Joseph Ari, said that the need for industrial transformation of Nigeria cannot be overemphasized, adding that United Nation’s General Assembly identified the need for industrialization of African countries which include Nigeria and proclaimed 2016 – 2025 an industrial decade for Africa.

Ari said: “For Nigeria to attain this level the industrial transformation of Nigeria should be the concern of all. Our efforts should be geared towards bridging all gaps identified with regards to industrialization. The findings of the report further corroborated our in-house skills gaps surveys, which equally showed that despite rising unemployment, numerous vacancies still existed in several sectors of the National economy that could not be filled by Nigerians because of the absence of the requisite skills. In view of these gaps and vacancies, the ITF management came up with a list of implementable programmes for year 2018.

“Over 13,000 Nigerians, which included 11,100 youths are been trained under the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), 360 women under Women Skills Empowerment Programme, 75 youths on air-conditioning and refrigeration and 50 youths on designing and garment making.

In his speech, National Chairman of CICAN, Mr. Toba Agboola, urged government to urgently ensure the effective implementation the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (ERGP) as a means of putting the industrial sector in the front burner of the nation’s quest to put Nigeria on the list of the highly industrialized nations globally.

He commended the minister for honouring the event and promised to partner with government in disseminating its achievements.