By Emmanuella Anokam
Participants at the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria’s (CICAN) conference have expressed concerns on Nigeria’s continued dependence on oil revenues.
The participants made this known in a communique signed on Saturday by CICAN’s Chairman, Mr Fred Idehai, at the end of its 2021 conference in Abuja, declared open by Amb. Mariam Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment.
The Conference which held on Friday had its theme as “The Role of Nigeria’s MSMEs, Export, Commodities, Trade and Investment in Stabilising the Post-COVID-19 Economy : Issues and Challenges, ”
The communique stressed that the over dependency on oil has been a major challenge in the country’s foreign exchange market.
According to the communique, the significance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to the diversity of the Nigerian economy came to the fore of discussions at the conference.
It noted that though AfCFTA has its challenges, the pan-African trade pact would deepen economic integration, improve and expand intra-African trade, enable rule-based engagement and facilitate dispute resolution.
It stated that the trade pact would also address injurious trade practices and serve as foundation for the establishment of a continental Customs Union.
“While the federal and sub-national governments work to solve the challenges associated with AfCFTA such as infrastructure dearth, intense competition from cheaper imports and weak regulation.
“It is pertinent that the private sector ramps up production, improve their packaging and expand distribution to beat the looming competition.
“It was recommended that Nigeria should be mindful not to turn into a dumping ground as the country explores the opportunities in the AfCFTA.”
On the Federal Government’s MSMEs Survival Fund: Successes, Lessons and Pitfalls, it commended the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Fund established by the Federal Government to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on small businesses.
It therefore noted that the speed with which Nigeria exited recession has been attributed to the success of the Fund and other initiatives of the government.
The communique also noted the major impact and achievements of the MSMEs Fund and pitfalls in order to chart a better path in the future.
“Data from the Industry Ministry shows that N75 billion survival fund has been carried out in four segments.
“Even as a total of 174,574 persons successfully registered for the N75 billion National MSMEs Survival Fund and the Guaranteed Off-take Stimulus Scheme under the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan.
“The scheme, designed to save jobs and sustain local production amidst COVID-19, has impacted small businesses positively. The Fund was adjudged successful and recommended for extension,” it noted.
The communique welcomed the Federal Government’s assurance that it has created access to finance to boost production and foster innovation geared towards sustaining small businesses.
On giant leaps in the Automotive Industry, it noted the innovations of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), including the gradual transition to electric car and other environment-friendly automobiles.
“Apparently, the automotive sector in Nigeria has the capacity to produce thousands of jobs and the NADDC is doing everything in the automobile industry sector to make that a reality.
“An example is that 400,000 vehicles per annum are being produced in the country with some being exported by companies like Innoson.
“The AfCFTA presents the automotive industry with an even wider market of over one billion people. It was recommended that the NADDC should ramp up the production of gas powered vehicles and electric vehicles in the country,” it noted.
Key speakers at the conference included Dr Jelani Aliyu, Director-General, NADDC and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters, who is also the Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Francis Anatogu.
Others are Cobham Nsa, Executive Director, Forefront Magazine, representatives of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority; Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria; Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission and Standards Organisation of Nigeria. (NAN)