Experts Chart Ways To Diversify Economy

February 21, 2021
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BY MARK ITSIBOR  |

As Nigerian devise how best to diversify the nation’s economy to take advantage of the opportunities available in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), industry stakeholders say the federal government should develop and leverage on the potentials of micro, small and medium enterprises to achieve its objective.

Experts at a Roundtable on “Diversification of Nigerian Products for Export” said the disproportionate prevalence of the micro segment and their inability to progressively upscale had resulted in less than optimal productivity from the sector.

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One of the speakers at the event, Oreoluwa Porter, in his paper; “Diversification and Non-Oil Export Opportunities for Nigerian States Post-COVID 19,” said with diverse production capacity for various agricultural and manufacturing products, some level of prioritisation was needed to build Nigeria’s diversification plan.

Mr Porter said informality, size and technical capacity, lack of information, poor infrastructure, lack of coordination among others had challenged the growth of the Nigerian non-oil trade sector.

He, therefore, recommended the adoption of formal integration strategies, capacity building programs, inclusiveness initiatives, investment enabling policies, quality infrastructure as well as system optimization initiatives to boost productivity of the Nigerian MSME sector.

PDF Bridge program manager, Titilola Akindeinde, said economic diversification was no longer an ideal inspirational state for the Nigerian economy, but rather an imperative for sustainable economic growth.

According to Akindeinde, the recent COVID-19 pandemic which caused a global oil shock has brought into sharp relief the precariousness of Nigeria’s over dependence on crude oil for its export market.

She said, “With over 89 million people (45% of the population) living below the poverty line, coupled with the economic vulnerabilities of the oil-dependent state further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of particular importance that the government as well as the private sector participants build short and medium-term strategies around the development of viable non-oil products in Nigeria in a bid to diversify the country’s export market.

“To drive export diversification, the transition from mono to diversified export market would have to be informed by concerted efforts in identifying and catalyzing the key value drivers of the economy with the potential to propel market actors (both public and private) to pivot away from oil and into non-oil sectors.

Akindeinde said despite the adoption of the Zero-oil Initiative in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020 of the federal government, the performance of the non-oil sector remained limited, and did not reflect the significant investment committed to the diversification agenda.

The representative of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Ezra Yakusak in his remarks noted that most MSME operators operated in silos, which had hindered the activities of the council. He stressed the need for a presidential task force on promoting a single window in the sector.

He said, “If we want to move the sector forward , we have to look at promoting a single window and take it as a critical issue.

“Also, let’s not forget that the single window is a critical aspect of the AfCFTA. So, there is  need for these activities to be coordinated beyond the AfCFTA,” he said.

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