FG to Establish Investment Councils With Six Developed Countries

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Olusegun Aganga

Olusegun Aganga

The Federal Government has said that it has concluded plans to establish Trade and Investment Councils with six developed countries across the world.

This, government disclosed, was part of renewed efforts to make Nigeria the preferred investment and manufacturing hub of sub-Saharan Africa.

The Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, disclosed this at the weekend during the Rivers State Investors’ Forum tagged ‘Change That Works.’

He said that the new initiative would act as a vehicle to channel big, transformative investments into Nigeria and strengthen the country’s balance of payment position in the global market place.

He said, “To enhance the level and quality of foreign direct investment, we have created trade and investment desks in Nigeria’s main embassies across the globe. We have also agreed with the relevant authorities to make it possible for genuine investors to get multiple entry visas in their home countries or visas at the point of entry.

“Our strategy is to make Nigeria the hub of investments in Africa. And to be able to fast-track this process, we have started with the inauguration of the Australia-Nigeria Trade and Investment Council in Australia during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia last month.

“The Ministry of Trade and Investment is looking at replicating this for six other advanced economies. This vehicle will channel big, transformative investments into Nigeria and strengthen our balance of payment position,” he said.

He added, “I was in China last week on the invitation of China’s Minister of Commerce. And from our discussions, the Chinese companies are excited about the investment opportunities in Nigeria.

“We have also been able to secure firm commitments from the Chinese government to make Nigeria a preferred manufacturing hub for Africa”, he added.

Aganga stated that the FG had already embarked on a holistic, investment climate reform programme to remove the barriers to Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria.

He said, “The Federal Government has identified the holes to be plugged in the quest for an investor-friendly environment.

“To this end, the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment has, therefore, commenced an investment climate reform programme, working with the Department for International Development (DfID) and the World Bank to create an investment ecosystem that will match that of the top economies globally.

“To pave the way for easy implementation, the reforms have been broken into the following subgroups: Business Environment Reform, Review of Trade, Industrial and Investment laws, policies and incentives; creation of a competitiveness council to drive and coordinate the efforts of the public and private sectors aimed at improving our competitiveness

The minister also identified review of tariffs to protect and promote local industries; Customs, Ports and Immigration reforms; and addressing issues raised in the Ease of Doing Business Survey conducted by DfID and the World Bank.

These include: the implementation of a National values re-orientation programme; civil service reform; and improving public and private governance, security reforms; job creation through Train to Work programme; rural industrialisation programme; cottage mining industry, and development of a social security (safety net) programme, among others.

“The long-term targets of the investment climate reform programme are: to increase Nigeria’s creditworthiness by 10 places in the next 10 years; increase investment level by 300 per cent by 2015 (increase of $8.9 billion); and reduce the level of poverty in Nigeria through the creation of more jobs.

“Others are to increase global competitiveness ranking by 75 points in 2015; and improve Nigeria’s Ease of Doing Business ranking and match South Africa’s ranking in the next 5 years and to be in the top 5 in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015”, he added.

He stated that the reforms were also targeted at value re-orientation and elimination of perception of corruption by the year 2015.

In addition to the investment climate reform programme, Aganga said that the ministry had also commenced the review of major industrial policies which focus on areas where Nigeria had comparative and competitive advantage.

He said, “With regard to the country’s resource advantage, the policies will focus on the oil and gas, petrochemicals, solid minerals and the agricultural sectors of the economy, among others.

“Already, the cement industry reform is yielding good fruits for the economy. As a result of the enforcement of the backward integration policy in the cement sector, Nigeria has moved from a heavy importer of cement into a country that will become a net exporter by 2012. We are working with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to replicate this for rice and sugar.

“Mr. President has made it absolutely clear that he wants the country to be self-sufficient in respect of rice during the tenure of this administration, and I have no doubt that this will be achieved”, he added.

In order to key into the Federal Government’s new investment initiatives, Aganga however noted that there was need for the Rivers State Government to develop a business and investment-friendly environment by reducing the number of procedures for starting a business.

These, he said, would make the registration of businesses faster and put structures in place to enforce contract, respect its terms and give genuine investors easy access to land.

He said, “It takes 38 days to register a business in Rivers State, 37 days in sub-Saharan Africa and 13 days in the OECD countries. Dealing with construction permit, registering property and enforcing contract, among others, also need to be improved further to attract the necessary investments for growth.”

 

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