By Temitope Ponle
The Federal Government has said that it would facilitate the promotion of industrial digital economy, sustainable and inclusive economic development in Nigeria and Africa.
Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said this at the West Africa Business Forum entitled “Empowering women and youths to spur Africa’s transformation agenda” in Lagos, on Tuesday.
Ahmed stressed the importance of inclusive economic development which, she said, remained a core element of both the African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.
The minister said the government was promoting the country’s digital economy through some national strategies.
“In Nigeria, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) represent up to 90 per cent of manufacturing and 80 per cent of trade.
“Our national strategy includes an MSME aggregation programme to promote specialisation and increase productivity, and also an MSME connection to e-commerce platforms and other emerging technologies.
“By leveraging these digital technologies, Nigeria hopes to create alternative routes to markets for MSMEs, within Nigeria and beyond, and to support production clusters in manufacturing and agriculture.
“It is, therefore, expedient to promote an industrial digital economy, sustainable and inclusive economic development.”
She also emphasised the need to leverage the opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to improve the export capacities of the formal and informal service suppliers.
“We are hopeful that the forum will be an effective avenue for empowering women and youth entrepreneurs and addressing the unemployment challenges that we have in the African region.
“The AfCFTA offers the continent’s youth and women greater opportunities to be players in regional value chain development.
She further assured of the ministry’s support to facilitate attainment of the AU Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.
Also speaking, Mr Tei Konzi, Commissioner, Trade, Customs and Free Movement, ECOWAS Commission, reiterated that the AfCFTA aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services for free movement of business, people and investments.
Konzi called on women and youth in West Africa to enhance their participation in trade, so as to promote the success of the agreement.
“To accelerate the gender-responsive implementation of the agreement, it is critical to build on existing initiatives, knowledge and capacities, particularly across the level of regional economic communities.
“There are clear opportunities to build on and scale-up in regional activities, to address trade and gender within the context of the agreement.
“We call on the women and youth to advocate for inclusive policies at the national and regional level through business associations.
“We also call on them to work with these associations to build linkages between larger and smaller players and give women and youth access, advocate for their entrance and unlock opportunities for access to finance and assets.”
Furthermore, the commissioner said the regional blocs, alongside some member states, were designing AfCFTA implementation strategies with the support of the ECA.
“We must ensure that gender and youth considerations are mainstreamed into these strategies.”
He added that all ECOWAS member states had signed and ratified the agreement and further appealed to remaining countries to accelerate the process of ratification. (NAN)