By Merit Ibe
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has disclosed that it was currently implementing the Export Expansion Facility (EEF), which is one of the projects of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, to de-risk the economy from shocks like COVID -19.
The Minister, Adeniyi Adebayo, who made the remark, noted that the programme aims to protect export businesses from effects of the pandemic and also safeguard jobs. Adebayo explained that the primary goal of the programme is to increase Nigeria’s export capacity in the near term and its export volumes in the medium term, adding that export growth is at the centre of the strategy for diversifying Nigeria’s sources of foreign exchange and reducing the vulnerability of the economy to external shocks.
“We have witnessed time and again, the devastating impact that events outside our control can have on our livelihoods due to our reliance on a primary source of foreign exchange.”
He said the projects represent a huge financial commitment from the government and demonstrate President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to export diversification, adding that the programme consists of 14 projects, focusing on providing capital for expansion, building export capabilities, export market entry and development, establishing export infrastructure and ensuring inclusiveness in export activities.
According to him, the trade is expected to complement Nigeria’s national development agenda and act as a catalyst for export diversification, by providing preferential access to the huge African market for Nigerian products and services, which currently sources over 85 percent of its imports from outside the continent.
“The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is interesting because Africa demands finished goods and Nigeria aspires to industrialise and progress beyond export of primary commodities. It also provides immense opportunities for Nigerian companies to provide services to Africa especially in financial services, e-commerce, and the digital economy where we have already developed significant domestic capabilities.”
He emphasised the ministry’s extensive efforts to increase local production and reduce importation.
On challenges to industrialisation, the minister said the industrialisation programme requires unprecedented quantum of capital from the public and private sectors.
“We estimate that funding required for government-backed programmes such as provision of credit to MSMEs, credit for investment by the private sector in backward integration programs, financing consumer credit to boost demand and enable economies of scale in capital-intensive sectors and financing the development of special economic zones all require significant financing.
For his part, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said he had told the minister and his delegation that the only way Africa can create the much needed jobs for its teeming populace and ensure shared economic prosperity is to deepen trade within the continent.
Sanwo-Olu commended Africa Union for the vision of AfFCFTA. As a subnational, he said Lagos will take full advantage of the agreement for economic collaboration.