By Ajose Sehindemi and Temitayo Ayetoto
Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s vice president, has said without a thriving private sector and an enabling environment devoid of bottlenecks, the economy could find it difficult to achieve its full potential.
He disclosed that the government’s spending relative to the size of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a paltry 8 per cent with the private sector especially the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) contributing the bulk of it.
Osinbajo, the keynote speaker at the flag-off session of the Manufacturing and Equipment Expo facilitated by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) said the acknowledgment of the sector’s significance and potential has continued to spur increased governmental commitment to ease the business environment.
Represented by Jumoke Oduwole, his senior special assistant on Industry, Trade and Investment, he said ongoing reforms both at the federal and state level were being targeted at meeting exactly the needs of businesses.
He said: “We definitely want to see a situation where SMEs are the engine of the economy. About 90 per cent of businesses in Nigeria are SMEs. They employ 80 per cent labour and they contribute about 50 per cent to the GDP. The ease of doing business has been particularly targeted at SMES because the VP chairs PEBEC meetings on monthly basis.”
He also urged the participating industries on the need to look inwards by basing their factories in Nigeria.
Aliko Dangote, the CEO Dangote Group in his introductory address emphasised the need for policy consistency, irrespective of the government in power, saying it is germane to the country’s diversification and industrialisation drive.
“It is important for us to have a plan that everybody buys into. Whenever we have a new government, the government spends half its time coming with a new plan and does not eventually take effect. We need industrial strategy that belongs to Nigerians and not any government and irrespective of party. Whenever any government comes we continue the plan from the previous stopped,” said Dangote, represented by Aliyu Suleiman.
According to Frank Jacobs, MAN’s president, the expo would serve as a useful platform for SMEs to retool and get equipment necessary to improve on their product quality. The ripple effects, he said, would be shoring up of the economy.
He said: “The GDP will be impacted and there is going to be transfer of technology. We encourage most of the companies displaying to ensure they come up with backward integration plan where they produce some of these things in the country. That means improvement in the economy.”
Speaking on the Nigerian Raw Materials Exposition happening alongside the MEE, Jacobs said it was intended to bridge certain information gaps and encourage increased sourcing of locally available raw materials by manufacturing industries.