As part of its effort to drive its diversification agenda, the Federal Government of Nigeria on Thursday announced its plan to set up 6 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) across the country.
Making this disclosure yesterday in Abuja during an international press briefing, Okechukwu Enelamah Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment said apart from the funding secured in the 2017 budget for the SEZs, other financial partners such as Afreximbank and EXIM bank of China have committed $1bn to the project.
The Minister explained that the ministry is facilitating the setup of the zones throughout Nigeria adding that specific goals include to help overcome the infrastructure disadvantages faced by local manufacturers, and promote the cluster effects gained by locating similar manufacturing businesses together.
He expressed optimism that the five enablers which form part of FG’s Growth and Diversification Plan will surely revolutionize the economy of Nigerian. He highlighted the enablers as: the Presidential Enabling Buainess Environment Council (PEBEC) which is chaired by the Vice President, the establishment of Special Economic Zones, attraction of domestic and foreign investments.
Other fundamental enablers according the Enelamah include; the institutionalization of the Structural Reform Agenda which entails building strong institutions and the establishment of 21st Century trade/Free Trade agreements that entails a win-win benefit for all partners.
He further hinted that FG intends to expand market opportunities for Nigerian companies as well as looking into the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) that has been quite controversial and updating Nigeria’s trade policy priorities by working to correct imbalances in the country’s trade relationships and reversing negotiating failures.
Enelamah pointed out that the CET which is a regional tariff structure for West Africa on the basis of which products are imported within the region that came into effect in 2015 with a transitional period of implementation to 2020 is currently been challenged by Nigerian manufacturers and industrialists who have taken a strong position that the negotiation that resulted in the CET did not take into account the sensitivities of the Nigerian industrial and manufacturing sector.
“The pre-existing sensitivities have now been compounded with the onset of the recession and other vulnerabilities. Stakeholders have taken the position that the Nigerian economy would be damaged if the CET is implemented in 2020 and that the situation would be compounded if Nigeria signs the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.
“As a consequence therefore, producers, manufacturers, industrialists and others have requested for the postponement and negotiation of the CET and for the EPA not to be signed. The government is thus, seriously working on these concerns,” he assured.
On the issue of Export Expansion Grant (EEG), he reiterated that come 2017, government intends to resume the scheme which was suspended in 2014 following allegations of widespread abuse and the accumulation of significant liability on the Negotiable Duty Credit Certificate (NDCCs).
He said the revival of the EEG scheme is based on government’s determination to expand the volume and value of Nigeria’s exports, diversifying export products and improving global competiveness of Nigerian exporters.
Giving an overview of his ministry’s vision, Enelamah explained that there are three core pillars of their major strategic programs which include implementation of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), Support of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the Digitalization of the Nigerian economy.
On the investment front, he hinted that the Ministry is working with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to enhance investments and reverse the overall decline of FDI inflows. Citing “the important Investment Promotion and Protection agreements signed with Singapore, UAE and Investment roadshows undertaken in China, Germany, Singapore, Turkey, UAE, UK, and US” as some of their achievements.
He further added that investors such as GE, Nissan, Coca-cola among others, have continued to express interest to expand investment in Nigeria as well as the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority who have expressed interest to reenergize the Nigerian Commodity Exchange.