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Trade Fairs And Doing Business In Nigeria

Nigeria occupies the 39th position among the African countries listed in the report which put Mauritius top on the log as the best country in the continent to do business


Trade Fairs have gained wide acceptance as a window for promoting trade and business in Nigeria. The popularity which the event has attracted, 37 years after its introduction, has given Nigeria great prominence in the international community.

The first Trade Fair was held in Lagos, shortly after Eko Hotel and Suits was commissioned in 1977, on a significantly small scale. Since 1986 when the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, took over the organizing of the trade show, the Lagos International Trade Fair has acquired the reputation of the largest business markets in the ECOWAS sub-region.

Other major trade shows include the Kaduna International Trade Fair (February), and the Enugu International Trade Fair (April). There are other local trade shows that are more product/service-specific in nature, aimed at show-casing existing and potential opportunities in specific sectors of the economy.

The recently concluded Lagos International Trade Fair, for instance, attracted over 20,000 visitors and more than 1,600 participants during the 10 days it lasted from November 6 to 15. For effective management, this year’s edition held simultaneously in three venues: Tafawa Balewa Square for general interest business; Muson Centre for corporate and business-to-business exhibitions, while Lagos Creative Industry Fair, tagged, “Eko Akete” took place at Freedom Park on Broad Street.

Like the other major up-country trade shows, the Lagos Fair was staged with the support and co-operation of the Federal and the State Governments. As usual, it covers all aspects of business and economic activities and offers a unique exposition for manufacturers, suppliers, buyers and users of a wide range of goods and services as well as opportunities for investment and trade promotions.

The underlying themes of all these events centres on the imperative of unlocking the vast domestic avenues for infrastructure development, diversification of the economy and job creation. It affords government the window of opportunity for creation of an efficient policy framework that would drive long-term, sustainable investment in key sectors such as infrastructure, manufacturing, solid mineral agriculture. As an emerging market, there is growing demand for the stimulation of effective Public-Private Partnerships for sustainable economic growth in Nigeria which will reverse the lingering state-dependent nature of the economy.

Regrettably, while efforts are intensified towards using the trade shows as special purpose vehicles to achieve rapid and sustainable economic development, business environment in Nigeria creates obstacles that make the realization of such objectives far-fetched. Every year, Nigeria is portrayed as one of the worst unfriendly business environments in the world, and ranks deep at the bottom of virtually all indices for measuring activities that conform to the world’s best practice.

Example is the recently published World Bank “Doing Business 2016” report, an annual report by the World Bank Group to measure the regulations that enhance business activities in 189 economies and those that serve as constraints. Nigeria performed poorly on virtually all the 10 topics covered in the survey.

The report revealed that Nigeria is among the worst countries in the world in the aspect of ‘Starting Business’. The recent World Bank Group annual report showed that Nigeria descended eight points from 131st to 139th position in ranking on ease of starting a business. According to the report, the process of starting a new business in Nigeria is hampered by government bureaucracy, with entrepreneurs resorting to third party agents to help them facilitate the process of business registration.

On ‘Dealing with construction permits’, Nigeria retained its ranking of 175 while it dropped from 181 to 182 on ‘Getting electricity’, and climbed from 185 to 181 on ‘Registering property’. The country retained its ranking of 181, 182 and 143 on ‘Paying taxes’, ‘Trading across borders’, and ‘Enforcing contracts’ respectively.

The World Bank Group also identified lack of credit as major drawback in doing business in Nigeria even though it acknowledged that the country improved marginally in protecting minority investors’ interest. According to the Group, Nigeria climbed from the 33rd to 20th position in ‘Protecting minority investors’ while its ranking dropped seven points from 52 to 59 on ‘Getting credit’.

Taken together, Nigeria lacks the reputation required to attract the level of investment the trade shows aim at, meaning that the realities on ground must be addressed. Generally speaking, going by the World Bank Group report, Nigeria is rated the 21st worst country to do business in the world. The implication is that there are only 20 countries out of 189, where it is harder to do business than Nigeria.

Worst still, Nigeria occupies the 39th position among the African countries listed in the report which put Mauritius top on the log as the best country in the continent to do business. With a resident population of less than two million people, Mauritius, a relatively small island nation, has developed into a middle-income diversified economy based mainly on tourism. The country is ranked high in terms of economic competitiveness, friendly investment climate, good governance and a free economy. With a GDP per capita of over $16,820, the Mauritius remains one of the highest in Africa. Many factors count against Nigeria beyond the blitz of trade shows. While we intensify the drive towards showcasing Nigeria’s great economic potentials, greater attention is required to make Nigeria investment friendly. We urge the Federal Government and its agencies to address the weaknesses identified in the World Bank Group report with the singular purpose of eliminating the identified obstacles to Nigeria becoming a true economic power.

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