The Lagos Chamber of Commerce &Industry (LCCI) held the second edition of the Lagos International Investment Conference in Lagos on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, with the theme “Positioning the Nigerian Economy for Diversification and Sustainable Growth.”
The event which was hosted by the president of the Chamber, Chief Dr. Mrs Nike Akande, CON was attended by Mrs. Aisha Abubakar, the Honourable Minister of State, Industry, Trade & Investment; Prince Rotimi Ogunleye, Honourable Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, who represented the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode; Mr. Michel Arrion, Ambassador of the EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS; Dr. Reuben Bamidele, who represented the Country Representative of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); among other dignitaries, diplomats, policymakers, leaders in the local and international investment community, business people and other stakeholders in the economy.
The conference reaffirmed that the Nigerian economy remained one of the most viable in Africa with diverse natural resources and a large market with a huge demographic advantage that can propel the diversification drive of the current administration. Underutilization of the country’s natural endowments has stifled the growth of the economy and limited the opportunity for diversification, especially of the external sector. The urgent need therefore to move away from the precarious dependence on one major source of foreign exchange earnings by diversifying the export base of the economy through an all-embracing economic development strategy was highlighted.
The conference canvassed that rebalancing the economy for a more vibrant export sector requires the effective collaborative efforts of both the government and the private sector. This will be achieved through the provision of the required enabling environment that will spur and redirect resources toward an export-led growth. Furthermore, other sectors such as agriculture, agro-allied, automotive and solid minerals remain viable for economic diversification.
The conference noted that the stymying of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows was the direct result of an inclement economic policy environment which constrained the ability of foreign investors to take ample advantage of the huge investment opportunities prevalent in Nigeria with some of the highest returns on investment globally. There was therefore the need to reconfigure a more liberal economic policy framework that will unlock the opportunities inherent in agriculture, ICT, green energy, transport, and tourism amongst others.
The conference reaffirmed the importance of a holistic economic blueprint that will provide the right set of incentives to both local and international investors toward making Nigeria a competitive destination for investment inflows and improving the ease of doing business.
The conference recognized that the agricultural sector remained an important sector in providing jobs to the teeming youth and ensuring food security. A significant improvement in investment in the sector would improve on the per-hectare use of fertilizers, irrigation and mechanization so as to significantly improve agricultural productivity, thereby curbing rural-urban migration.
The conference took note that investments in commercial agriculture offers a great window of opportunity which should be exploited to the fullest, alongside encouraging and empowering small and medium scale farmers.
On the whole, while commending the significant effort already invested in attaining food security, greater attention should be focused on developing the various agricultural value chains, thus enhancing access by farmers to critical inputs as well as improved and more favourable access to finance and access to markets, both locally and for exports. Agro-allied processing should also be emphasized. Significant foreign exchange could be earned by a focused policy and strategy to empower local farmers and processors to attain minimum international quality standard for agricultural products and access to foreign markets.
The conference noted that tourism in Nigeria was grossly underdeveloped as a result of which it has not technically achieved the status of an industry in Nigeria, which accounts for the minimal contribution it makes to the gross domestic product (GDP). Some of the major reasons for this include lip service to the development of the tourism sector, poor infrastructure and poor consular procedures and visa policy.
While commending government for the ongoing major construction of new terminal buildings at our international airports as well as the current realization of the imperative to using concessionaires to manage our international airports, there is still the urgent need to emphasize huge investment in and overall improvement of our national transport infrastructure – as a nation is only as advanced as its transport infrastructure – and a more flexible and competitive visa regime to occasion a significant improvement in the volume of tourist arrivals in Nigeria in the foreseeable future.
There is a need for Nigeria to develop a national tourism policy clearly focused on cultural tourism or ecotourism or perhaps a combination of both. In this regard, the various tourism locations and potential all over the country should be developed with the help of private sector operators and investors.
The exit from Nigeria of some major airlines should be considered a serious course for concern and all effort should be made be bring them back. The Ministry of Aviation should convene a stakeholders meeting on the best way to retain and enhance Nigeria’s status as the aviation hub for West and Central Africa.
Government should also consider the option of forming a new Ministry of Aviation and Tourism, as has been successfully done by some countries in Africa and the Middle East with remarkable success.
MR. SOLA OYETAYO, FCA
VICE PRESIDENT & CHAIRMAN TRADE PROMOTION BOARD
LAGOS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY