By Lewis Chukwuma –
Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari to join the federal cabinet in October 2015 and was subsequently appointed to the Industry, Trade, and Investment portfolio in November 2015. It was a merit-based appointment, by a president who follows his intuition. It was not influenced by any godfather.
Interestingly, few know that the man at the helm of affairs of the nation’s strategic Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is a medical scientist. But his vast thirst for knowledge compelled him to go even far beyond that turf, acquire more understanding from different arenas and ultimately demonstrate that medicine and business administration fundamentally address human development.
It’s worth recalling here that Enelamah earned a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1985. He earned a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard University in 1994 where he was a Baker Scholar and Loeb Fellow. He is a member of ICAN (1992) and became a CFA in 1997. He earned Dean’s List honours in his MBBS graduating class at the University of Nigeria, and was awarded national prizes in the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) examinations.
He was the Chief Executive Officer, Partner and Co-Founder at African Capital Alliance. He founded the firm in 1997. Dr. Enelamah was one of the original principals of Zephyr Capital and South Africa Capital Growth Fund, Ltd. Previously, he was employed at Arthur Andersen and Goldman Sachs. He was an investment professional of Zephyr Management, L.P. He served as a Director of Dorman Long Engineering Limited and on the Board of various companies including eTranzact, Technoserve, Inc., Africa Leadership Initiative West Africa (ALIWA), and Business Day.
He also served as the Director of African Venture Capital Association and as a Member of the Board of Africa Venture Capital Association and the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association. He served as a Director of Emerging Markets Private Equity Association. He is a Member of the Advisory Boards Africa Leadership Initiative West Africa; served as a Director of Cornerstone Insurance Plc until January 2016 and as a Non-Executive Director of UAC of Nigeria Plc from 2010 to December 2015. He is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute and more.
Moving forward, these background obviously have a bearing with the quality and scope of impact he has made since his appointment to guide the nation’s Industry, Trade & Investment sector. Arguably, Nigeria is the most attractive market on the continent today, factoring in its huge population of about 180 million people. This is the largest population among Africa’s 54 countries. Notwithstanding this attribute, the nation has for decades consistently dithered on the World Bank’s global ease of doing business scale. The 2017 ranking showed some improvement. Beyond the hurdle of huge infrastructure deficit, businesses are encumbered in Nigeria by the intrinsic bureaucratic bottlenecks at various stages of economic facilitation especially within government establishments.
Under the sure-footed guidance of Dr. Enelamah, all tiers of government are now being proactive to improve the country’s 2018 ranking on the Ease of Doing Business, building on the 2017 improved ranking.
As part of effort aimed at facilitating the ease of doing business in Nigeria, previously cumbersome business registration is now very easy; small businesses can now establish without facing any difficult situation. According to Enelamah who noted that there were compelling imperatives for sub-national reforms at the states level, “A lot is being done to reposition the economy in areas where we have comparative advantage. We have realised that the engine of growth is the private sector and the only way to succeed in vitalising the economy is to make it very easy for businesses to flourish.’’ Enelamah strongly believes a lot could be achieved with limited resources by applying best practices like efficiency, transparency, performance management and key performance indicators.
Guided by the foresight of his Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment, in July 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari established the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) with a mandate to remove bureaucratic and regulatory constraints to doing business in Nigeria. The Council is chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. The council released three main pillars of the next phase of interventions and reform to improve its image on ease of doing business report by the World Bank in 2018. The pillars comprise Deepening Existing Reforms, Sub-national Reforms and Trading within Nigeria. Nigeria’s ranking in the latest report by the World Bank for 2017 showed an improvement. Nigeria’s overall global ranking improved by 44.63 per cent points average, against 44.02 per cent age points, or 0.61 per cent in 2016.
From emerging consensus, there are compelling imperatives for sub-national reforms at the states level. Clearly, sub-national rankings are important as Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) make up to 90 per cent of business in Nigeria. The local business plays a vital role in ability of MSMEs to thrive, a friendly business environment enables MSMEs to move from the informal to the formal sector. It is then not surprising that Enelamah is pushing for drastic and fast-paced business reforms to be conducted simultaneously to improve the business environment and attract foreign investors.
Still pushing unrelentingly, the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment is moving ahead with its plan to improve further the ease of doing business in Nigeria as it recently slashed the period required for the perfection of import and export documentation papers from two weeks to between seven and ten days for export documentations and a maximum of eight days for import documentations.
Also, as part of the federal government’s initiatives to ease doing business, Dr. Enelamah recently approved timelines and extended working hours for the Commission. The CAC now closes by 7pm to the public. These, among numerous other initiatives, are sure measures towards not only fast-tracking quick start of ease of business in Nigeria, but also ensuring that the Commission evolves into a world class companies’ Registry. Clearly, things are looking up as Enelamah faithfully rewrites the story of ease of doing business in Africa’s largest country.
In all these challenges being handled by Enelamah, distractions are curiously mounting on his home front where apparent political jobbers are eyeing his job, not even minding that they are his intellectual and professional inferiors.
Recently, Chief Nduka Anyanwu, an ex-officio member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) complained that some of them who had work very hard for President Buhari are jobless and uncompensated for their efforts. Perhaps on a humorous turn, he irritably accused his kinsman Enelamah of being a minister of Abuja only and not coming home to market Buhari. He also accused Enelamah of using “high-sounding words,” whatever that meant and also urged the president to bring “somebody that loves him,” Clearly, it would appear that Chief Anyanwu is broke and needs a job badly. How does attempting to pull down one’s illustrious brother translate to a job? More importantly, it is also clear he does not understand the president.
Dr. Enelamah’s sheer brilliance and focused guidance of the strategic Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment clearly is the best way of marketing his principal. The president, at the end of the day, takes the credit. At this critical period of rebuilding the nation’s economy and stabilising the polity, local distractions like these are unhealthy.
But on the other hand, given the huge focus needed to drive his strategic portfolio, is Enelamah aware of the groveling Chief from Abia. This is highly unlikely!
– Chukwuma wrote from Abuja