By Peter OBIORA InvestAdvocate
Lagos (INVESTADVOCATE)-Yemi Osinbajo, vice president of Nigeria on Thursday urged indigenous manufacturers and businesses to ensure that they commit to Nigeria’s future and to keep on investing and pushing the frontiers of local businesses.
The vice president gave the advice at the commissioning of the second phase expansion project and the laying of the foundation stone for the third phase expansion project of Nigeria’s foremost indigenous biscuit producer Beloxxi Industries Limited.
“I want to urge foreign investors that with the way this country is going, Nigeria will not be recognisable in terms of infrastructure in the next few years. This is the country to come in for investment,” the vice president said.
According to him, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) is also a “ready-to-serve” government, ensuring the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to keep the economy on the path of sustainable economic growth and global competitiveness.
He noted that one important component of the Plan is the provision of critical infrastructure, such as roads, rail and power, which this administration is fully committed to.
“We’re fully committed to supporting companies such as Beloxxi as we spur growth and create jobs within the economy,” the VP added.
Osinbajo said another paln of the ERGP is the creation of an enabling business environment, and making Nigeria a progressively easier place to do business. “To actualise this goal, in July 2016, Mr. President inaugurated the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which he asked me to Chair, and he gave us the task of implementing this mandate,’ he affirmed.
The Nigeria’s VP said the business climate reforms undertaken under PEBEC have already begun to bear some fruit and reflects that Nigeria is committed to creating an enabling environment to facilitate private sector-led growth and development. “Many, of course, will recall that in October, 2017, the World Bank released its flagship “Doing Business” report for 2018. In that report, Nigeria moved up by an unprecedented 24 places, and for the first time the country was also recognized as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world,” he said.
Osinabjo affirmed that this result shows the power of collaboration across various levels of government, especially in the reform areas such as getting credit, where we are now ranked 6th out of 190 countries due to our enhanced legal framework, with the potential to unlock credit to small and medium-scale enterprises by giving added comfort to lenders.
“Last week, PEBEC announced a National Action Plan (NAP 3.0), which commenced on February 5 and will run until April 5, 2018. This accelerated intervention programme will focus on implementing some of the most relevant ease of doing business reforms that have ever come within our radar within the next two months,” he added.
“Obi has told us about the delibarate employment policies of Beloxxi. So, instead of engaging robots or too many labour saving equipment. This approach to structuring the business is exemplary. The opportunity we have as industrial elite and political leaders comes with some responsibilities,” Osinbajo said.
According to the VP, the Federal Government is working with NAFDAC, SON, the Nigeria Customs Service, as well as the Nigeria Police Force, amongst others, to ease the burden of product registrations, quality standards regulation, as well as the movement of goods and services across the country.
He disclosed that since July 2017, the Council also began collaborating with State Governments to implement ease of doing business initiatives that will make States increasingly attractive investment hubs.
“This year, we are working on a number of key reform initiatives, including the deployment of a National Trading Platform comprising a Single Window Platform, deployment of scanners, and a Ports Community system, that will together promote transparency and efficiency at our ports,” Osinbajo disclosed.
He said the FG’s implementation efforts will be underpinned by ensuring compliance with Executive Order 001 and on efficiency and transparency in government, as well as our web-based reporting application for validation and objective feedback from the public.
The nation’s VP disclosed the FG is collaborating with the National Assembly and supporting the passage of their priority business climate reform bills, while partnering to deliver an Omnibus Bill, which will address various irritants within extant laws that need to be amended for the purpose of achieving a better environment for doing business in Nigeria.
“Last Monday, February 5th, Mr. President signed Executive Order 005, a decisive step in the promotion of indigenous businesses, talent and professionals, especially in Science, Engineering and Technology. The order mandates all procuring authorities to give priority to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts. The Order also directs all MDAs to engage Nigerian professionals in the planning, design and execution of National Security projects. The order also specifically prohibits the Minister of Interior from granting work permits to foreign workers whose skills are already available in Nigeria. Where expertise is lacking, procuring entities are required to give preference to foreign companies and firms with a demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous development, prior to the award of such contracts,” Osinbajo affirmed.
He further disclosed that two days ago, the FG launched what is called the Policy Laboratories, which is an intervention to accelerate the implementation of the government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
He said the Laboratories will bring together all private and public sector stakeholders necessary to achieve the specific policy or project objectives of our economic plan. In the first instance, we are focusing on three specific areas; agriculture and transport, power and gas supply, and manufacturing and processing.
The goal of these labs is to generate $24 billion worth of investment, 80 percent of which we expect will come from certain private sector participants, with 15 million jobs, projecting about 3.5 percent GDP growth this year, and 7 percent by 2020.
“As a long time active player in our market, we look forward to continued collaboration with Beloxxi in achieving our objectives of economic growth and job creation,” he affirmed.
Speaking at the event, founder and managing director of Beloxxi, Obi Ezeude said the company was founded in 1994 as a trading company and following the ban on biscuit importation by the government of Nigeria, Beloxxi ventured into manufacturing in 2005.
Ezeude said Beloxxi in its quest for economic growth creates job for secondary school leavers who subsquently further their education to improve themselves and add to economic development. “We employ this youths as soon as they finish their secondary school in order to keep them off the streets and currently we have about 3,700 staff and seeking to increase to 4,500 and 6,000 in the nearest future,” he said.
Ezeude disclosed that currently Beloxxi produces 40 metric tonnes of cream crackers and 28 million cartons annually.
According to him, there are three major challenges the Nigerian manufacturing industry faces which include the challenge faced in accessing capital, ” if this problem is resolved, the problem of infrastructure will be fixed<” he added.
The second he said is the problem of human capital development, our youths needs to be meaningfully engaged by way of jobs in order to contribute meaningfully to economic development and growth,” Ezeude added.
The third challenge facing the manufacturing sector according to him is on how to localise the value chain in the industry, Beloxxi has become a big company in Nigeria, 71 companies supply us locally and this will make Nigeria save foreign exchange,” Ezeude affirmed.