The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, has restated Federal Government’s commitment to providing all the necessary policy and investment supports to enhance the performance of the nation’s real sector in the years ahead.

The minister, who gave the assurance at a public lecture organized by the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) in Lagos, noted that government leveraged on comparative advantage and factor endowments in the commitment to making the country competitive for local production, thereby increasing the sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP.

He explained: “ 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).

“Initial results include increased local production of sugar, particularly in Niger and Adamawa States by Golden Sugar and Savannah Sugar. Although some of these areas have been affected by flood, Government is working hard to bring relief to the people and communities.

“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”, Enelamah added.

The minister explained that the inauguration of the National Council on Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (NCMES) was a demonstration of the focus of government on the MSMEs’ sub-sector, especially to boost their development and increase their access to finance by providing capital for both start-ups and expansion.

He pointed out also that through PEBEC’s role and the collaboration with the National Assembly, two important laws to ease access to credit were passed last year.

According to him, 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.

Enelamah listed some of the achievements of the project as including more than 89,000 Small and Medium enterprises registered on the BIG portal; over 900 Nigerian MSMEs had benefited from grants to implement their business plans; and at least 40 local consulting firms trained to deliver technical services to MSMEs.

The minister further explained that over 750 Nigerian MSMEs had 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.

He expatiated: “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 labor 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”, Enelamah added.

In his paper presentation at the forum, the Director General, Industrial Training Fund (IFT), Joseph Ari, pointed out that the need for Nigeria and other African countries’ industrial transformation cannot be overemphasized, adding that this explains why the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2016 – 2025 the industrial decade for Africa.

He 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 being trained under the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), 360 women under Women Skills Empowerment Programme. Also, 75 youths on Air-conditioning and Refrigeration, 50 youths on designing and garment making”, the ITF boss added.