By EMEKA EJERE

As the nation heads towards yet another edition of the Nigeria Economic Summit, expectations are high that the outcome of the event will among other things help in taking Nigeria much further out of recession through consistent growth and diversification.

Nigeria has just minimally exited a 2-year long recession occasioned by negative growths in five consecutive quarters, with a 0.55 percent growth according to records from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) organizes the Annual Nigeria Economic Summit in partnership with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.

It has become an annual dialogue and the flagship event of the NESG, providing a credible and widely recognized platform for the policy makers and corporate leaders to interface with government.

It also brings together development partners, civil society and representatives of the academia as well as provides participants the opportunity for consensus on issues of national development while evolving a common strategy and policy framework for addressing issues constraining national development.

It is believed that the annual economic summits have helped shape many of the reform policies that have underpinned the evolution of Nigeria’s economic growth strategy over the past 24 years.

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization that serves as a platform for private and public sector dialogue, focused on Nigeria’s sustainable economic development.

Noted for its impact on public policy, objective research and yearly economic summits among other things, the NESG has helped create an enabling environment conducive to good governance and responsible private investment.

Last year’s summit (NES#22) focused on “Made-in-Nigeria” with the aim of getting stakeholder commitment to the structural and fiscal changes required to diversify the Nigerian economy by placing much needed emphasis on Made-in-Nigeria goods and services.

It provided a timely opportunity for a national economic review and created a consensus among all Nigerians on the need for the nation to significantly increase the level of productivity across all sectors.

Findings show that most of the summit outcomes have been streamlined into the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 launched by President Mohammadu Buhari in April.

This year, the 23rd Nigerian Economic Summit (#NES23) holding at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja from October 10 – 12, 2017, seeks to initiate robust conversations that accentuate the economic framework for opportunities, productivity and employment.

According to the Minister for Budget and Economic Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the theme of this year’s summit which is “Opportunities, Productivity & Employment: Actualizing the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,” is linked to the implementation of the ERDP.

Addressing journalists in Lagos on the preparation for the summit, the minister noted that the implementation of the ERGP is critical to achieving the ambitious goals of the government to diversify the economy and attain a growth rate of 7 percent by 2020.

He said the summit will elicit and adopt a solutions-based approach in addressing the issues that will expand opportunities, tackle unemployment and improve productivity.

“This is in line with the aspirations of the ERGP which aims at restoring and sustaining growth, investing in our people and building a globally competitive economy.

“The theme is also significant, given the need to sustain the imperatives of the “Made-in-Nigeria” agenda from the last economic summit.

“This is expected to enhance the effective implementation of the ERGP and also translate to improvement in living standards of the citizen,” he said.

Stakeholders expect that the summit will outline national job deficits and provide a national response framework, define a reviewed national framework for exploring economic opportunities across priority industries and leverage entrepreneurial development as a key driver of productivity by setting out a reviewed framework for entrepreneurship and innovation.

It is also expected to establish a reviewed national agenda on employability in terms of a talent development pipeline map economic opportunities to the specific market skills to ensure talent competitiveness.

Also expected is provision of policy linkages between economic opportunities, skills and competencies and the right education pipeline that delivers them and explore strategic investment options, frameworks, models and business cases for unlocking capital flows that create job opportunities.

Sectoral Expectations

Infrastructure, transport and logistics
Transportation and infrastructure building are a major determinant for any economic development. For instance, #NES23 seeks to drive the LAKAJI Economic Corridor initiative, which is expected to create jobs and opportunities, as well as improve delivery of goods and services within 10 states, from Kano to Lagos.

Renewable energy
Renewable energy has a 30% pledge by the Federal Government. A recent report indicates that renewables are one of the strongest and most efficient delivery of power. These present high impact opportunities for investments and job creation, in line with #NES23’s theme.

Mass and Low income housing
With the high costs of housing and high level of homelessness, the huge opportunities and potential for low-income housing needs to be addressed, especially in the metropolis and megacities. Setting the path towards establishing affordable homes will emerge as a milestone for #NES23.

Agriculture and agribusiness
It has been established that Nigeria is an agriculture-based society. With a possible $3 billion to be unlocked in agricultural financing, one of the expectations of the conversations held at the Summit is that investment and infrastructure policies must be promoted to enrich and empower agribusinesses, while generating value.

Creative industries
In the past efforts of creative industry have not been appropriately credited. The World Bank notes that Nigeria’s entertainment industry has become a key piece in creating youth employment and cultivating culture.

Wholesale and retail trade
This sector contributed 19.83% to GDP in Q3 2016, in a time where Nigeria and Nigerians experienced high level of hardship due to the state of the economy. Significant attention is required for a thriving informal sector, with aid to SME’s and MSME’s to promote the ‘ease of doing business’ agenda.

Digitalization:
Africa is on the verge of a forth industrial revolution through digitalization. Nigeria needs to catch up or lose jobs to South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Egypt. The ICT sector in Nigeria has experienced rapid growth over the past 15 years, acknowledging the steady rise of internet users in Nigeria.

Manufacturing:
With its current 7% GDP contribution, the sector is considered to potentially contribute 30% if aggressively developed. #NES23 continues the conversation to establish a high-quality manufacturing sector.

An incontestable fact is that to be able to attain the level of economic advancement, Nigeria must shift from exporting just raw materials to exporting finished goods. Experts believe that this will not only bring about more foreign exchange but will also lead to local capacity for employment opportunities.

Managing Director of the Nigeria Export and Import (NEXIM) Bank, Mr. Abba Bello, believes that what is currently happening to global commodities is actually an opportunity for Nigeria to develop other potential earners for the country.

In an interview with Business Hallmark, Bello said, “So it is an opportunity for us now to diversify our focus to other sectors. And there is always a learning that will happen. During the time that oil is less important in the world, we should be raising up other sectors.

“So I look at it now more as an opportunity being presented to us to develop other sectors of the economy, rather than looking at it from a negative point of view that the economy is weak.”

According to Senator Udoma, the 23rd economic summit is structured into five key thematic pillars which include, ‘ThinK Nigeria’, ‘Skills, Competencies & Capacity, ‘Access to Capital’, Legislation, and ‘Economic Inclusion’.

The ‘Think Nigeria’ pillar, he said, seeks to identify what proactive steps are required towards building a local content in the country, in which its competitive advantage is created and sustained through a highly localized process.

“Access to Capital is concerned with how Nigerians can create and explore the strategic investment options, frameworks, models and business cases for unlocking the type of capital flows that create opportunities and jobs for Nigerians,” the minister explained.

He said the summit will further seek to articulate an action plan with specific timelines for all stakeholders, especially the private sector and government.

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