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Agenda For Our New Minister Of Industry, Trade And Investment

All the FDIs that have so far been attracted to the country have been lopsided toward the oil & gas sector. The new minister and his team should see how they can strike a balance in order to achieve economic diversification for the country

– Joe Anatune

After more than three months of waiting, Nigeria finally got new ministers to help President Mohammadu Buhari execute his programme of change. While officially inaugurating them, the president explained that the delay was informed by his desire to select competent men and women, who would be committed to his change project and his anti-corruption campaign. Now, he has them. His change mantra is designed to translate into transforming the country into the envy of the world and one of the ministries so dear to his heart in this regard (and which he wants to use to achieve the objective) is the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment (MITI).

For him, the importance of this ministry lies in the fact that it is through it that the nation’s industrialisation project would be realised, all things being equal. Aside from promoting the nation’s trade relation with the outside world, the ministry is also saddled with the responsibility of seeing to the industrialisation of the country and will serve as the arrowhead in the renewed vigour of transforming the country into a foreign direct investment (FDI) destination.

The immediate past minister for this ministry is Mr. Olusegun Aganga, an investment banker and former Managing Director in Hedge Funds division ofGoldman Sachs International in London. Based onhis training and antecedents, he was given the portfolio because of the overarching importance the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan attached to this ministry.

In concrete terms, Aganga did not disappoint Nigerians given the significant achievements he recorded in the four years he ran the affairs of the ministry.According UNCTAD report, Nigeria is now among the top three FDIdestinations in Africa owing to the untiring effort of Aganga, who had earlier headed the finance ministry. President Buhari is determined to surpass the achievements of his predecessor in this regard and his choice is another Goldman Sachs man and investment banker, Dr. Okechukwu Enyinna Enelamah, a medical doctor and a Chartered Financial Analyst and Chartered Accountant, who has also accomplished much in his own area. The minister’s starting point should be to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil.

The emphasis should be how to upgrade the non-oil sector of the economy, meaning that he has to review the performance and achievements of his immediate predecessor and the economy to see if there is any lacuna and device strategy to fill it so that Nigeria can be free from slavery imposed by other countries on account of over dependence on oil. All the 14 Parastatals should be involved in the efort. He should review the Industrial Revolution project initiated by the immediate past administration. Before the launch of the project, there was no comprehensive and coordinated industrial policy for the country. There was no strategy to diversify the nation’s economy and revenue base. The manufacturing sector contribution to GDP was (and is still) very low, at less than four per cent. Capacity utilization was (and is also still) very low, while massive jobs loss was (and isstill) prevalent just as there was no emphasis on value addition. For decades, Nigeria had specialized in exporting raw materials instead of finished goods (which account for between 35 and 60 percent GDPs of the advanced and some emerging economies).

On account of this, the country has weak industrial structures and hence dependent on importation of most of our products. That was the situation before the previous administration came on board. To change the situation, the government launched the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) in 2013 to serve as roadmap for industrialisation and linkages to other economic sectors with a view to reversing the ugly trend by diversifying the nation’s economic and revenue base. The new minister must review this plan to see how it can be improved upon in order to move the nation’s industrial sector forward bearing in mind that Nigeria is expected to be among the top 20 economies in the world by 2020. One of the strongest variables in the poor performance of the Nigerian industrial sector is poor power supply.

Because of the power crisis, local manufacturers cannot compete with their foreign counterparts. If this challenge remained unresolved, all the promises of the present administration would remain an idle fancy and mere grandiloquence. Enelamah must liaise with his counterpart in theMinistry of Power to address this challenge. Made-in-Nigeria products must be marketed abroad. To achieve this, Enelamah must reinvigorate the activities of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to enable it project our locally made products to the outside world. The minister should make this agency more proactive by overhauling its operations to enable it function effectively. This is where the cooperation of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) becomes imperative. These private sector groups organise trade missions abroad and exhibitions every year.

They are also visited by their foreign counterparts. Enelamah , should partner with them because they are also working for the good of the country. The new minister should take a critical look at the issue of the quality of goods produced and exported out of this country very serious. This is very important because, the barometer for measuring the level of economic development and improvement in the quality of lives of the citizenry of a country is the quality and standards of goods and services produced and consumed in that country.

This is because, standards and other means used in providing quality goods and services for both domestic and foreign markets are critical for the development of any economy, its competitiveness and wealth creation as well as the health of its citizens. But regrettably, the Standards Organisations of Nigeria (SON) the agency changed with the responsibility of enforcing standards in the country has not been equipped enough to carry out its mandates. On this note, the minister must as a matter of urgency, help to ensure that a befitting quality infrastructure is in place for the SON to save the country from constant embarrassments by foreign countries that often reject Made-in- Nigeria products.

Already, SON has done quite a lot in this regard given the number of the ongoing projects it is embarking on. It requires the help of the supervising ministry to accomplish these noble projects that will bring about the desired change in the Nigerian economy. One of the key policy planks of the various administrations in the country has been how to make the country a destination for foreign direct investment (FDI).

This policy initiative is borne out of the belief that huge inflow of foreign capital would help to restore the nation’s ailing economy to the path of sustainable growth and thereby improve the quality of live the citizenry. We must create the right environment to attract foreigners to come to the country. All the FDIs that have so far been attracted to the country have been lopsided toward the oil & gas sector. The new minister and his team should see how they can strike a balance in order to achieve economic diversification for the country.

Finally, the minister should be open to suggestions and criticisms especially from the media and the civil society groups who are the mouth piece of the people. He should work with them while shunning sycophancies. He strides three ministries comprised into one but expected to excel in all. President Buhari considered him competent given the number of projects he hashandled in the past and which he successfully completed. So, he is the cynosure of all eyes that expect dramatic change in the Nigerian economy.

• Joe C. Anatune, a Marketing Communication Strategist, wrote in from Lagos.

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