Prince Adetokumbo Kayode, CON, SAN is the President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ACCI. In this interview conducted in the side-line during the launching of Enterprise Nigeria by the Chamber in Abuja, he said government needs to work with the organised private sector to achieve sustainable economic growth while calling on the private sector to take advantage of the Chamber’s MoU with China, Korea and the Russian Federation to establish industries in Nigeria. Francis Kadiri reports.
The NBS last week said the Nigeria economy has grown by 1.81%, and that the growth is driven by the non-oil sector. How can this be sustained?
The only way we can sustain the growth is to industrialise. Nigeria has always wanted to industrialise but we need strong will to so. We need money to industrialise and you can industrialise by developing the small and medium scale enterprises, SMEs. So it good that we met the projected targeted because the projection was 1.80%. The next step is to make a more challenging projection of possibly 4.00% for next year, and 6.00% for upper year. This is part of the efforts we are making in the private sector. We must bear in mind that it is not government that booms the economy, it is the private sector. However, government must understand that it must collaborate with the private sector to achieve set goals. Government should not run businesses alone. Government must also create enabling environment for business to thrive. This means that government agencies must not become a stumbling block for the establishment and smooth running of businesses and the promotion of economy and commerce. Government must give the private sector all the support need to thrive.
Nigerian are not lazy people, they are hardworking and very industrious people. But we need to make it possible for the average Nigerian to do business.
What is your view of the 2019 budget, to what extent will it impact the economy?
The budget has been presented, but we are not clear about it. However, a point of note is that the funding of SMEs is crucial to industrial development and economic growth. Government may have provided a lot of money for intervention, but the mechanism for delivering the money is a major challenge that need to be addressed. Government must change how it funds SMEs. Commercial banks do not give short term loans but they collect long term funding from government. We want government to fund SMEs through the organised private sector. Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry has more than a thousand members, if fifty members apply for funding and we are able to assist them by understudying their business plans and validating it, we expect that government should provide their needs at 2 to 3% interest rate. We also want government to stop giving cash loans, rather, government should embrace finance leasing which means sourcing for the equipment they need to run their business, and giving it to them.
How will Nigeria benefit from the MoU that ACCI is set to sign with the Russian Federation?
The Federal Government is trying to expand the economy. The aim is to develop other streams of revenue besides oil and gas. ACCI has identified golden economic opportunities in the policy and we are working to open doors of trade in non-oil products for our members. The idea is to take advantage of the policy by expanding the businesses of our members so that they can deal with Europe and China among others. To achieve this, we have signed MoU with Korea, Japan and we are talking to them.
The MoU to be signed with the Russian Federation has great advantages. Apart from being a springboard for Nigeria to achieve industrial successes, it will pave ways for improvement in technology. I am sure you know that Russia is remarkable for technology. Nigeria can take advantage of the current competition around the world. This is the best time to negotiate deals. In the area of technology, Nigeria stands a better chance to negotiate now. The whole world is looking at Africa in relation to China. The ACCI takes this opportunity very seriously and we are opening doors of business relationship with the global community.
The trade in non-oil products will lead to the diversification of the economy while we will be proud that ACCI members are making new headways in business.
I would be in Russia next week, and we are hopeful that the MoU will be signed as soon as possible. If Nigeria has Russia as industrial partner, Nigeria would attract more industries and technology to the production sector and the economy will be better for it. We can do the same with the Chinese and enjoy the values of their industrial prowess.
It is important that states across the country take advantage of the economic opportunities afforded by the industrial partnerships facilitated by the Chamber. If states do so, they will open doors of huge economic growth and development for their people. Likewise, the organised private sector must rise up and take the bull by the horn by overcoming the challenges hindering their investment plans. The Chamber has already signed MoU with China and Korea. The partnership must be harnessed by Companies in order to realise the objective of the collaborations.
What sectors would you say particularly favour investments?
The production sector generally. There is the metal sector and the plastic sector among others. We want Nigeria to boom as a result of sectoral development of industries. We want the textiles industry to boom again and also the footwear industry. When I mean industry, I don’t refer to only buying and selling, but I mean the entire production value chain, meaning from the souring of raw materials to production and to the packaging of products and then sales.
Kindly review the activities of the chamber for year 2018.
We have done a lot to restructure the chamber from one secretariat to five central bodies. We no longer have one office structure as was the case, we now have four centres and the secretariat, and we put all the work we do in each of the centres. For example, our work on policy matters is directly supervised by the Policy Advocacy Centre of the ACCI while our work on training and skills development is under another centre. The Abuja Training Centre is in charge of organising trade missions and trade fairs, export promotion and activities that would enhance the economy.
We have also established the ACCI Dispute Resolution Centre, DRC in order to put in place an organ within the Chamber that will resolve disputes between businessmen. It is for arbitration and mediation between parties in a commercial dispute. We don’t need to go to court when we have disputes.
The Dispute Resolution Centre is to resolve dispute expeditiously with little or no cost to the parties in dispute.
These reforms will strengthen the chamber and facilitate the reaslistaion of the objectives for which it was established. The restructuring will also widen the scope of our services and enable us to give support to government in its trade policies.
You have discussed quite a number of projects. How would you source for funds to execute them?
Prudence is key. In ACCI, there is zero opportunity for dishonesty and financial indiscipline. Resources are very dear to us and we ensure that we get maximum value from the resources we have. So we take personal interest in project execution by executing most of them ourselves. Some members of ACCI are producers of basic materials and we engaged them in the execution of the project, and that has saved resources. The ceiling in this complex was produced by one of our members, the lighting and illumination works of the complex was also produced by our member.
We need to put in place, structures that will promote our economy. ACCI needs to establish MICE in Nigeria. MICE is acronym for Meetings-Incentives-Conventions and Exhibitions. MICE is a huge business that does not quite exist in Nigeria. There are no big convention centres that are entirely dedicated to business and financial exchange. By 2018, ACCI will be able to attract huge businesses to take up its venues for meetings and conferences.