Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday, launched the Nigerian Economic Diplomacy Initiative (NEDI), saying that the initiative was of monumental importance to the nation’s foreign policy and economy.
The Vice President said the launch of NEDI was a convergence of Nigeria’s global reach and influence with the tremendous opportunities for commerce and industry in Nigeria.
The event which took place at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, was anchored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Osinbajo described the initiative as a game-changing synergy that had been waiting to happen for years.
He further said the initiative was designed to compliment the fundamental economic objective of the federal government which is to improve the well-being of Nigerians as individuals and collectively.
The development, Osinbajo added, is in line with the emphasis of the current administration on the economic development plan which is to create jobs as well as develop infrastructure.
While saying that the initiative will be used to address national economic interest, Osinbajo said the present government is committed to adequate consultations before making commitments.
“As designed, this initiative fits very well into the ongoing work towards an enabling architecture of laws, of rules, of processes and tools that will facilitate business.
“Economic diplomacy, as most of us know, is the use of diplomatic methods to address national economic interest and of course, it has a key role to play in our case in achieving the objectives in our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,” Osinbajo said.
Osinbajo further said the initiative is a means by which the nation intends to manage global interdependence relating to trade, to investment and financial flows and the articulation of international economic rule and participation in the global value chain.
“So, it is imperative that given the size of the Nigerian economy, we are well positioned to actively participate in international economic affairs in a manner that is collaborative and mutually-beneficial to us, and of course, to our international partners,” the Vice President added.
Osinbajo further said that Nigeria’s participation in international economic processes must take account of official bilateral and multilateral relations, as well as trade and investment flows.
“Our multilateral economic engagement requires engagement in the architecture and rules at global and regional levels.
“This is why we have participated in African integration processes since the adoption of the Lagos Plan of Action and the treaty establishing the African Economic Community,” Osinbajo added.
Osinbanjo urged all hands to be on deck to make the initiative a success.
Speaking earlier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the initiative is a way of keying into one of the three areas of challenges identified by President Muhammadu Buhari at the inception of his administration.
“Your Excellency, when President Muhammadu Buhari and yourself took over the leadership of this country in 2015, you identified three main challenges to be addressed, namely: security, governance (corruption) and the economy (job creation).
“We in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were determined to key into those challenges in a direct and meaningful way and not focus exclusively on routine and conventional diplomatic initiatives,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama further said with a permanent presence in about 100 countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is uniquely placed to facilitate market access for Nigerian businesses in those 100 countries and also to facilitate foreign direct investment into Nigeria from those 100 countries.
“Like many innovations, the idea is quite simple. We call it the Nigerian Economic Diplomacy Initiative (NEDI), but in essence, it is a platform and mechanism for connecting businesses,” Onyeama stated.
In the area of corruption, Onyeama disclosed that the Ministry will soon launch an internet-based mechanism for validating documents with payments online.
Onyeama said the development will obviate the need for people to go through the often corruption prone bureaucracy to have documents validated.
Onyeama also said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to establish a 24 hour call center for Nigerians anywhere in the world to use wherever in distress, including when they are victims of corrupt practices by Nigerian officials in the nation’s missions abroad.
On his part, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, said the initiative is one thing that if the nation gets right, will certainly advance the country’s course in terms of economic development.
“This is one thing that if we get right, it would certainly advance our course in terms of foreign affairs and diplomacy and all the things we want to do,” Enelamah said.
Enelamah added that the initiative will certainly assist in boosting the nation’s economy and all the initiatives the nation has going.
“I consider it a very strategic and very important initiative and I am glad that it is gaining steam and it is gaining momentum as we go on,” Enelamah further said.