Interview: Okey Enelamah
What role does the ministry expect to play in Nigeria’s broader economic strategy?
OKEY ENELAMAH: The president has outlined three priorities for the administration: to create a secure environment throughout the country, to put an end to the widespread corruption, and to boost the economy through initiatives that foster growth. Diversifying the economy away from oil is critical; despite contributing only 10% to GDP, the commodity at one point accounted for 90% of foreign exchange earnings and 70% of government revenue. In line with the national diversification efforts, manufacturing and industry are set to play an increasingly important role.
The ministry has developed a five-point agenda to achieve its goals. This includes creating an enabling environment for business in Nigeria, implementing the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan, championing the cause of Nigeria’s small and medium-sized enterprises, attracting long-term domestic and foreign investment, and integrating Nigerian firms into regional and global value chains for processed goods. From the ministry’s viewpoint, we are committed to having more goods produced locally, but realise this can cause some economic disruptions in the short term. We are engaging with manufacturers to foster a business climate that will create jobs and increase the local production of goods. However, no country industrialises in four years, so time is needed for the strategy to succeed.
What are the biggest challenges facing Nigeria’s attempts to boost industrialisation?
ENELAMAH: An important element is to ensure the right enabling environment. There is a strategy for industrialisation that involves various stakeholders, and we must collectively identify the sectors in which Nigeria has a comparative advantage. For example, given the country’s significant limestone deposits, cement production makes sense. With the right environment and incentives, large-scale investments were made and Nigeria is now a major cement producer. This development can be replicated for other sectors, such as agribusiness, textiles and garments. We are working to put in place the right incentive mechanisms that reward good behaviour and punish the opposite.
Proper infrastructure is key for industrialisation, and industrial parks and special economic zones can expedite the process. No country industrialises alone, and Nigeria will partner with long-term foreign investors. Knowledge capital is another central component, and we are working with partners to improve this. As these ideas and structures become entrenched and part of the landscape, it is not easy to reverse the policies that fostered them.
What sort of reforms might help improve the country’s attractiveness to foreign investors?
ENELAMAH: The importance of the ease of doing business should not be underestimated, and the World Bank’s index for this is critical. I believe that we must work towards improving our performance on global indices. Over the years, Nigeria has slid down the ranking because we did not make an explicit effort to improve our position within it. A central goal for the ministry is to create conditions that facilitate commerce; we want to become a top-100 country on the index within the lifetime of this administration. The president has approved a set of proposals that will institutionalise an enabling environment and boost the ease of doing business in Nigeria. We have also established a Presidential Council – an inter-ministerial body that will work with ministries, agencies and state governments – to achieve this goal. This council will be chaired by the vice-president, thereby reflecting the seriousness with which the government regards the issue.
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