Economic Diversification: FG Plans to Establish Special Economic Zones
By Ossom Raphael
In its bit to diversify the economy, the Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, on Thursday announced Federal Government’s plan to establish 6 Special Economic Zones across the country.
Dr Enelamah, who made the announcement in Abuja, said the ministry is facilitating the setup of the zones across Nigeria adding that specific goals include to help overcome the infrastructure challenges facing local manufacturers, and promote the cluster effects gained by locating similar manufacturing businesses together.
The Minister states that apart from the funding secured in the 2017 budget for the Zones other financial partners such as Afreximbank and EXIM bank of China have committed $1bn to the project.
He expressed optimism that the five enablers which form part of FG’s Growth and Diversification Plan will surely revolutionize the economy of Nigerian. He highlighted the enablers as: the Presidential Enabling Buainess Environment Council (PEBEC) which is chaired by the Vice President, the establishment of Special Economic Zones, attraction of domestic and foreign investments.
Other fundamental enablers according the Dr Enelamah include; the institutionalization of the Structural Reform Agenda which entails building strong institutions and the establishment of 21st Century trade/Free Trade agreements that entails a win-win benefit for all partners.
He further hinted that FG intends to expand market opportunities for Nigerian companies as well as looking into the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) that has been quite controversial and updating Nigeria’s trade policy priorities by working to correct imbalances in the country’s trade relationships and reversing negotiating failures.
Enelamah pointed out that the CET which is a regional tariff structure for West Africa on the basis of which products are imported within the region that came into effect in 2015 with a transitional period of implementation to 2020 is currently been challenged by Nigerian manufacturers and industrialists who have taken a strong position that the negotiation that resulted in the CET did not take into account the sensitivities of the Nigerian industrial and manufacturing sector.
According to him “the pre-existing sensitivities have now been compounded with the onset of the recession and other vulnerabilities. Stakeholders have taken the position that the Nigerian economy would be damaged if the CET is implemented in 2020 and that the situation would be compounded if Nigeria signs the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.
“As a consequence therefore, producers, manufacturers, industrialists and others have requested for the postponement and negotiation of the CET and for the EPA not to be signed. The government is thus, seriously working on these concerns,”
On the Export Expansion Grant (EEG), the Minister said that government intends to resume the scheme 2017 which was suspended in 2014 following allegations of abuse and accumulation of significant liability on the Negotiable Duty Credit Certificate (NDCCs).
He said the revival of the EEG scheme is based on government’s determination to expand the volume and value of Nigeria’s exports, diversifying export products and improving global competiveness of Nigerian exporters.
Giving an overview of his ministry’s vision, Dr. Enelamah explained that there are three core pillars of their major strategic programs which include implementation of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), Support of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the Digitalization of the Nigerian economy.
On the investment front, he said that the Ministry is working with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to enhance investments and reverse the overall decline of FDI inflows.
He further added that investors s
uch as GE, Nissan, Coca-cola among others, have continued to express interest to expand investment in Nigeria as well as the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority who have expressed interest to reenergize the Nigerian Commodity Exchange.