Since the inauguration of the National Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council, NIPCAC, by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, around the middle of last year, a lot of initiatives and projects have been kick- started and are at varying degrees of implementation.
The Council was set up with a broad mandate to partner with the private sector to implement and debottleneck projects which can accelerate industrialisation. The Council has adopted a specific target of increasing output and boosting Gross Domestic Product, GDP, over the next five years and has as members a wide range of Public and Private sector operators in its fold.
As a background, the Council adopted five high priority focus areas: policy and regulation, trade and markets, critical infrastructure (power, broadband and road), skills and capacity building and lastly financing. These were later broken down into sub-committees and the issues addressed therefrom are those which plague Nigerians in their everyday lives and could not have come at a more auspicious time. The work of the sub-committees is a testimony to what partnerships between the public and private sector can achieve when they collectively work together for public good.
The Policy and Regulation sub-committee is expected to identify and implement initiatives to minimize smuggling and incentivize investment. For the Trade and Markets sub-committee, the expected outcome is to identify and implement initiatives to improve access to Nigeria’s priority markets, drive 30-40 per cent increase in ICT exports, increase in foreign earnings ($1b – $4b annually from Agro) and create about 475,000 jobs (with agro accounting for 300,000, ICT and Heavy Metal contributing 50,000 and 50,000-200,000 respectively). The critical infrastructure sub- committee was expected to identify and implement project(s)/initiatives to differentiate, accelerate and boost power supply to industries with a target of generating additional 4.2 MGW of power, identify and implement initiatives to improve broadband coverage by deploying 18,000km of fibre across the country and implement initiatives to improve road access to areas which benefit the Nigerian business community as a whole. The skills and capacity sub-committee has the mandate to identify and implement initiatives to bridge the gap between the skills demanded by industry and supply by Nigerian education institutions in Sugar, Maintenance and Technology sectors. The Finance sub- committee completes the list.
A list of 49 initiatives have been drawn up across these five sub-committees. Currently, 44 initiatives have commenced and are ongoing, three require intervention and two need to be revalidated. With the cynicism often expressed by Nigerians on the prospects of public-private sector partnerships and alliances, this council is indeed a welcome development.
The Policy and Regulation sub-committee has compiled and published a compendium of incentives, a process that will be updated periodically upon the official gazette of these incentives. They have also developed amendments to Nigeria’s anti-smuggling, Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) and Excess Dividend Tax. These are all catered to in the 2018 Finance Bill. There are also ongoing discussions with Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, NIPC, on the need to gazette and operationalize other incentives which have been approved by the Federal Executive Council but have not come into effect. They are working with the Ministry of Finance to finalize the Tax Incentive Scheme for Road Construction which is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance. The Policy and Regulatory sub-committee is also working with the National Economic Council to address issues with impact investment decisions and business operations at the State-level.
The Trade and Markets sub- committee has begun discussions with the Digital Bridge Institute on partnering with the private sector to develop and operate a pilot ICT Cluster at the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) in Oshodi. The Trade and Markets committee has also put in place, a mechanism to address key sectoral issues to improve private sector involvement in the agro-allied, cotton, Garment and Textile (CGT), and heavy metal sectors. In the agro-allied sector, the committee is leveraging the Special Economic Zone in Lekki to facilitate investment in Agro – allied processing such as cassava, oil palm, etc. In the CTG and heavy metal sector, the sub-committee is working with Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment to address policy issues in the value chain. To enhance Trade infrastructure and support exports, the committee is collaborating with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Secretariat to expedite elimination of artificial barriers to trade. The Trade and Markets sub- committee also seeks to review and renegotiate trade agreements by updating Nigeria’s WTO Tariff Schedule to reflect Nigeria’s ECOWAS tariff obligations for trade expansion, concluding negotiations on the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) for Africa, developing Trade Reform Agenda for ECOWAS, establishing a Nigerian Trade Remedy initiative, Economic Safeguard and Anti-Dumping Mechanism and drafting a bill to address dumping in the Nigerian economy and reviewing and digitizing all Trade and Investment Agreements (TIAs) from 1960, with the aim of re-negotiating agreements. They also seek to review and renegotiate all trade agreements including ECOWAS Trade Provisions, CET, ETLS and Nigeria/US post 2025 AGOA, initiate, negotiate and conclude Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China and Singapore and negotiate a Nigeria/UK Post-Brexit Framework.
The Critical Infrastructure (Power)sub-committee has the following key initiatives; the completion of the 188MW embedded generation network in Aba, expansion of the capacity recovery for 2 100MW units (G8 and G9) at Kainji, TCN/ SCADA Private build-out and licensing, ring-fenced modular power plants close to the load demand centers via negotiated bilateral agreements and the engagement of GE and the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) on the possibility of using existing underutilized capacity of the NDPHC assets to increase power supply to industrial hubs. Another critical initiative is the construction and installation of the 600MMscf/d gas plant, a collaboration between Seplat/ ANOH and NNPC.
For Critical Infrastructure (Broadband), the sub- committee has made several recommendations to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, aimed at improving broadband penetration. Some of which include implementing a wholesale and retail data services pricing framework, fast tracking the implementation of INFRACO projects by reviewing and simplifying Infraco commercial agreements to ensure immediate licensing and commencement of operations. It has also proposed to the NCC that the harmonized spectrum held by TV broadcasters be freed up for broadband utilization and that the Commission should enforce and incentivize compliance to the Open Access model.
The Skills and Capacity Building committee seeks to establish three Apprenticeship Programmes in Sugar, Technology and in maintenance of manufacturing equipment. The programme has secured the buy-in and commitment of the Sugar Council and the major sugar industry players on delivering the Sugar Apprenticeship Programme. On the maintenance programme, the committee will partner with Siemens Professional Education institute to assist in setting up a Vocational Education Training center. There is also a plan to establish a one-year Technology apprenticeship programme, which has seen it conduct assessment visits to multiple sites in Lagos State including Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) in Oshodi, UNILAG, etc. as location for the take-off of the Technology Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) in conjunction with an ICT cluster initiative. The Council has obtained an approval in principle from the NCC to partner with the DBI on this initiative.
All in all, one can say without equivocation that this Council is on its way to helping steer Nigeria on the path of long term industrialization and competitiveness. This journey is not a sprint but a marathon and as we work on the quick fixes we cannot shy away from the fact that some of the work being done will take a while to come to fruition and the support of the citizenry is hereby solicited as we move on to another chapter of our nation’s economic development.