As Nigeria’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI), Okechukwu Enelamah for over three years has overseen policy-making and implementation relating to industrialisation of the economy, development of small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) and promotion of trade.
The ministry under his leadership says it is structured around five pillars which serve as roadmap.
The pillars include: Business Enabling Environment; Industrialisation of the economy; Promotion of Export and Foreign Direct Investment; Development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises; and Expansion of Trade.
Mr Enelamah came into office fairly credentialed. With a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Harvard University in 1994 and membership of ICAN (1992), very few people doubted his ability to deliver on the mandate of promoting business and industrial growth.
He has recorded breakthroughs that are difficult to ignore, such as efforts in positioning Nigeria’s investment environment but he has also been partly criticised for a number of controversial decisions of the government, including Nigeria’s refusal to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
The minister, who is rarely in the news, attracted public attention when PREMIUM TIMES reported in July that he was enmeshed in a N993,000 accommodation allowance double payment mess, according to details of the annual report by the Auditor-General of the Federation for 2016.
The controversial payment was made to the minister after he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is however unclear whether the controversy has been resolved.
Meanwhile, here are some key policy initiatives of the ministry and how successful they have been.
- The ministry has been part of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It also facilitated the launch of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), which in turn is fostering better coordination and collaboration between Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Experts say the initiatives have gone a long way in repositioning the nation’s investment space.
- In industrialisation, the ministry says it has stepped up and is 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.
It has also commenced the establishment and upgrading of some existing industrial parks to world-class special economic zones (SEZs) across the geo-political zones in the country.
- On Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), the ministry also facilitated the Inauguration of the National Council on Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (NCMES) to increase focus on MSMES and boost the development of the MSMES sub-sector in Nigeria.
It also says it has increased access to finance for MSMES by providing capital for both start-ups and expansion. Many Nigerians start-up owners have however complained of how difficult it is for them to access these funds.
- On trade, it says deliberate efforts are ongoing to integrate into various regional and global value chains and increase the amount of local value addition.
Already, the ministry says Trade Remedy Mechanism for the Rules-Based Safeguard and Protection of the Nigerian Economy and Industry is being finalised.
Similarly, it says it is modernising Nigerian Trade Policy to update it and bring it to 21st Century standards in accordance with the priority of President Buhari that trade should work for all Nigerians in accelerating growth, improving the quality of growth, creating jobs and enhancing welfare.
On the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it says there is serious on-going technical work to strengthen Nigeria’s Trade Policy Infrastructure.
- On bilateral relations, with the ministry’s input, Nigeria has hosted delegations from The United Kingdom, led by Prime Minister Theresa May which explored more opportunities for trade for post-Brexit Britain; from Germany led by Chancellor Angela Merkel; and also attended the Forum For China Africa Corporation (Focac) Summit in China, during which bilateral talks were held with Chinese delegates.
By the visit, the ministry says the leaders of those nations demonstrated belief in the potentials of the Nigerian economy and endorsed government’s efforts in growing the economy for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Many ordinary Nigerians have however said the impact of such visits have not been felt in their daily lives.
- The Chinese Agreements: In China, President Xi promised to open China’s market for agricultural products from Nigeria, based on trade negotiating engagements by Nigeria’s Trade Negotiators.
The ministry says 13 Memoranda Of Understanding were signed, valued at USD 5.05 billion. In all, more than USD 10 billion agreements were signed.
Others, still under discussion are being quantified. One of the keys among them was the MOU signed with Shandong Ruyi International Fashion Industry for USD 2 billion, for a first-ever cotton value chain industry – that is from cotton growing to ginning, spinning, textile manufacture and garment- in Katsina, Kano, Abia and Lagos States.
The investments would comprise: aggregation and offtake of cotton from farmers for ginning, spinning and weaving; manufacturing at least 300 million metres of African Print, which will meet 20 per cent of West Africa’s demand; producing cotton and denim garments for export and local consumption. The locations and nature of investments by Ruyi Group include Abia, Lagos and Kano States.
As the nation basks in the euphoria of the various deals with China, however, experts have warned of the need to exercise caution in the deals with the Chinese, in the interest of Nigeria’s local market and investors.
- Recent initiatives by the ministry include fight against smuggling, an initiative designed to end smuggling; Trade and Markets, with the key objectives being to identify and implement initiatives to improve access to Nigeria’s priority markets, drive 30-40 per cent increase in ICT exports, increase in foreign earnings ($1bn -$4bn annually from Agro-allied businesses) and create 475,000 jobs.
- The Ease of Doing Business initiative and its attendant effect in many areas of the nation’s economy is by far one of the ministry’s most impactful policies, experts say, executed in partnership with numerous ministries, departments and agencies.
The initiative saw the nation move 24 places from its 2016 spot of 169 to 145 in 2017 on the World Bank ranking.
- By far the most controversial decision taken by the Nigerian government in 2018 was its refusal to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). Many analysts, including former president Olusegun Obasanjo, lampooned the government over the decision. But Vice Presdient Yemi Osinbajo said the government needed to embark on consultations with relevant stakeholders on the agreement.
“With respect to the ACFTA, there are clearly huge advantages for us no question about it at all,” he said. “The rest of Africa sees the enormous advantage of Nigeria’s participation, everybody is waiting for us naturally and that is because they see a huge market, there are advantages of our being there, but we must ensure to get the best possible terms for Nigerian trade and commerce.
“Our experiences with dooming and other injurious practices make it obvious to us that our market could be a real target, our local manufacturing could become unprofitable, our agricultural advantage could be reversed.
“Consequently, we have embarked on an extensive consultations with trade groups, manufacturers and organised labour in all the six geo-political zones in other to get a clear sense of concerns as we navigate the process of signing the treaty.”
- On the flipside, the ministry ended the year in October with a fairly unfavorable news as the nation slipped on the World Bank ranking on Ease of Doing Business. Of the 190 countries ranked by the World Bank, Nigeria ranked 146 in 2018, dropping by a spot from its 145th position in 2017.
Source: Premium Times