The federal government has concluded arrangements to facilitate the development of at least one agro-processing zone in each senatorial district of the country.
Minister of state for industry, trade and investment Amb. Mariam Katagum, stated this at this year’s Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) Annual Conference with the theme: “The Role of Nigeria’s MSMEs, Export, Commodities, Trade & Investment in Stabilising the Post COVID-19 Economy: Issues & Challenges,” in Abuja.
The minister disclosed that under the 2021/2022 budget, the ministry will roll out the development of agro-processing zone in each geopolitical zone in the first phase of the scheme.
She said the government would continue to proactively engage commodities associations with a view to ensuring that challenges militating against their operations were tackled, especially now that the country is gradually exiting the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the government was expanding its network of collaborations with the state governments to provide the needed platform for attracting investments, adding that
more states are encouraged and supported to organise investment summits in order to mobilise the investing public to consider Nigeria as a preferred destination.
The minister, who was the special guest of honour at the event, stated that government overtime has created platforms to improve access to finance for MSMEs in order to boost production, increase the value of trade, enhance the investment climate, foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
This is also in addition to the deliberate and pragmatic policies geared towards supporting and sustaining small businesses in the country, thereby equipping entrepreneurs to compete globally, especially under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).”
Katagum further explained that in a bid to guarantee continuity in support of MSMEs in the country, the federal government harnessed the prime policies of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) into the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) in order to sustainably create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. These policies, she maintained, are aimed at boosting productivity levels of businesses in the country, thereby accelerating the growth of the domestic market and creating profitable connections to regional, continental and global markets.
The minister revealed that at the last presidential retreat for members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), president Muhammadu Buhari underscored the importance of MSMEs as engine of economic growth and pledged that government would do everything possible to support them, including removing all bottlenecks to MSMEs’ access to finance.
She pointed out that Buhari recently inaugurated the National Council on Monitoring and Evaluation of Executive Order 005 on local content which will, among others, be a game changer for MSMEs.
Further she listed other pro-MSME interventions by government, such as the recent approval of the revised National Policy on MSMEs, the planned floating of an MSME micro finance bank by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), and government’s emphasis on single digit interest credit facility for MSMEs.
A communique issued at the end of the conference noted that though the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has its challenges, the pan-African trade pact would deepen economic integration in the continent, improve and expand intra-Africa trade, enable rule-based engagement facilitating dispute resolution and addressing injurious trade practices and would serve as foundation for establishment of a continental Customs Union.