The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that the trade fair, organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), is a great opportunity to showcase the nation’s capacity to produce to global standards and to export. The President made this known at the 2022 Lagos International Trade Fair, held in Lagos, the 36th in succession, to be put together by the LCCI. Buhari, who was represented at the occasion by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, said that the essence of trade is connecting people and businesses to create value.
The President stressed the important role that trade plays in stimulating the economy and driving sustainable development. “Through increased trade, our goals of job creation, Gross Domestic Product growth, increased foreign exchange earnings and reduced insecurity are actualised. The development of export trade takes this a step further and helps our nation reach its economic diversification goals”, he said. Buhari said Nigeria had signed and ratified the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which would dramatically boost intra-African trade and is expected to deliver an integrated continental market, consisting 1.3 billion consumers, saying this is a great opportunity for Nigeria because the country’s international trade was currently doing well with trade surplus within January and June of 2022 in excess of N3.2 trillion.
The President informed that the public sector would continue to drive investment into infrastructural development, encourage access to low-cost financing and provide fiscal incentives to companies wishing to manufacture products for sale. These incentives include three to five-year tax holidays for enterprises as pioneer industries; tax-free operations and capital allowances for agriculture, manufacturing and engineering within the free trade zones. Furthermore, the Federal Government had taken much-needed steps to improve the trading environment through the creation of Special Economic Zones with 17 operational Special Economic Zones (SEZs), and 14 of these are general economic zones that support export processing, large-scale manufacturing, warehousing, logistic services, tourism, food processing and packaging and technology development while the remaining three are dedicated to oil and gas-related activities.
The Federal Government has also provided funding support through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bank of Industry (BOI). Specifically, the CBN has initiated programmes to encourage domestic production and exports, some of which include the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, FGN Special Intervention Fund for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and N150bn Targeted Credit Facility. The Federal Government has also successfully disbursed a total of N785 billion through BOI from 2019 to 2022. It had also granted fiscal incentives to businesses, across multiple sectors, through the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. The Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and Company Income Tax (CIT) taxes are among the lowest in the world while small businesses with an annual turnover of less than 25 million naira, are exempted from paying Company Income Tax. A lower company income tax rate of 20% is also provided for companies whose yearly turnover is between 25 million to 100 million Naira, the President said. Buhari further told the audience that the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment was reviewing and updating the country’s National Trade Policy in a bid to firmly establish Nigeria as a worldwide trading hub and a regional leader for the policy seeks to maximise economic output, expand infrastructural development, promote business growth, industrialisation and entrepreneurship, as he called for synergy between relevant parties to enhance trade in Nigeria by creating a hub that is open to all by positioning the country as a gateway and giant in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking at the occasion, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, applauded the efforts of the leadership of LCCI in bringing together its members, who he said remain the fulcrum of business in Nigeria, saying that “I must commend the efforts of the chamber in helping businesses develop from their conceptual stage into successful organisations because the costs of sustaining enterprises are tough and require great tenacity for “The prevailing economic certainties, networking and value addition are important tactics that can be used by businesses; both small and large, to connect with others, acquire and retain customers, increase brand awareness and differentiate their places in the market, if they intend to stay competitive in the long run.
“In Nigeria, this sector is the heartbeat of our industrial and economic development and in Lagos State, MSMEs have significantly contributed to employment creation, value addition, income generation and appreciable poverty reduction. Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that MSMEs are crucial to our economic growth and stability, in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the promotion of creativity and decent work for all. As a government, our administration’s priority is the business sector with particular focus on MSMEs. With a population of over 22 million, Lagos is the 5th fastest growing city in the world, which is why it is an investors’ delight. Lagos accounts for over 25% of the National Gross Domestic Products (GDP), and 65% of Nigeria’s industrial and commercial activities. Therefore, it is imperative to formulate and implement policies, programmes and projects that would propel the state to a globally-competitive economy.
“On our part, we have continued to make giant strides by formulating and implementing Policies, Programmes and Projects that have impacted and stimulated economic growth in the state. In our quest to build a globally-competitive economy, especially through the MSMEs, we have improved considerably our Economic Policy Coordination and Implementation, we have encouraged partnership building, between the public and private sectors and we have prioritised labour to facilitate and promote investment in the development of quality workforce for various categories of enterprises. We have also been working to lower the cost of doing business, improve ease of doing business, build skills, support innovation and strengthen the function of the labour market to improve capabilities, reduce conflicts and foster harmonious industrial relations.
“Lagos State has continued to attract direct foreign investments, while our sustainable infrastructure projects continue to serve as support to industrial, commercial and other economic activities to foster shared prosperity among residents. I must not fail to acknowledge that the staging of the annual Lagos International Trade Fair, has become a component of the trade architecture of the state, having become a household event. I look forward to seeing high traffic of human, goods and vehicular movements within and around the Trade Fair Complex, with the attendant increase in commercial activities during the 10-day event. I must acknowledge and commend the LCCI for being an unrelenting partner especially through its policy advocacy which has been yielding positive results by ensuring good policy direction for the economic prosperity of not only Lagos State, but Nigeria at large.
“I earnestly urge you to continue to initiate and develop more opportunities for supporting businesses, especially the young corps of entrepreneurs, who have great potentials of re-writing our state’s business history and revitalising Nigeria’s economic fortune. Undoubtedly, our continued partnership cannot, but yield bountiful returns. Let me further assure you that we shall not rest on our oars until business prosperity is guaranteed. This is because our administration is not oblivious of the fact that for us to achieve our dream of becoming Africa’s model megacity by 2025, we must continue to improve our business climate so as to attract more private sector investments, create jobs and increase productivity”, Sanwo-Olu said.
The President of LCCI, Asiwaju (Dr.) Michael Olawale-Cole affirmed that the current edition of the trade fair underscored the importance of relationships and networking among businesses for the purpose of wealth creation as it underlines the value of interactions between producers, service providers and end-users. Olawale-Cole stated that economic conditions had been challenging even as the economy sustains recovery from the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, navigating through shocks from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and climate change in the form of devastating floods across the country. He said while the Nigerian economy had recorded some impressive growth figures this year by showing sustained recovery of the economy, there are heightening fears of recession, food insecurity and more climate change impacts.
He charged investors to continue to demonstrate resilience and determination to forge ahead despite challenges and that as a chamber, “We have strong confidence in the Nigerian economy and we believe we would meet our growth target for this year. The LCCI’s trade fairs, specialised exhibitions, and several business events are some of the many ways we support trade and commerce in the economy”. Olawale-Cole reiterated that LCCI was committed to the vision of the government in terms of economic diversification and self-reliance, saying “It is encouraging to note the efforts of the Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment in reviewing Nigeria’s National Trade Policy last updated in 2002. We are expecting a new national trade policy that can respond to the dynamics and new realities of the global trade system in terms of evolution of global production networks and global value chains”.
He made a case for non-oil sector development and the need to add value to primary products so as to improve earnings for both the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy. Hence, the trade fair provides a platform to identify non-oil alternatives and highlights the significance of value addition. Not only that, it serves as an avenue to boost economic and commercial activities, as he commended the recently-launched Special Agro Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) Programme, by the Federal Government and supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB), Islamic Development Bank, and International Fund for Agricultural Development, as co-financiers. SAPZ is meant to drive private sector investments to develop value chains for selected crops and livestock starting with the eight participating states to promote increased export trade of agro-processed products across the continent by boosting AfCFTA.
The LCCI President stressed the need to do a lot more to attract more private capital into the Nigerian economy. “In this connection, our economic and investment policies must be right, and our institutions must be investment-friendly. We need to fix the structural, institutional, policy, and regulatory issues impeding private sector development”, he added while the Chairman, Trade Promotion Board of LCCI, Engr. Leye Kupoluyi also attested that “In our quest to sustain this legacy project, we have found loyal patrons, sponsors, partners, and exhibitors to depend on over the years. Every year, our list of sponsors is stretching to include the biggest brands in Nigeria today. We deeply cherish this friendship, cooperation, and understanding”.
Meanwhile, the LCCI President, at the United Bank for Africa (UBA) special day, had said the trade fair was specially packaged to showcase innovations in goods and services on the platform of competitiveness that showcases indigenous-homegrown businesses and their foreign counterparts from across the world. The President said it is hoped that the governments at all levels would continue to address the issues of enabling environment in the country, especially as regards infrastructure, insecurity, and right policies to fix the key drivers of high inflation, saying “We need to do these in order to fully harness the huge enterprising resource of domestic and foreign investors for the diversification of our economy and the welfare of our people”.
Governor Sanwo-Olu, in his closing remarks, said the occasion remained the premier trade fair in Nigeria and the flagship of excellent trade and business exposition in the West African sub-region. The governor said the challenge of bench-marking the state against global best practices, making it a model for others to follow, and growing it to become a befitting smart city that is comparable to any of its kind, was a very herculean task and that his administration had done a lot to improve the business environment through implementation of business-friendly policies to improve the ease of doing business in the state, incentives and the unrelenting commitment to infrastructural development and renewal, noting that “Our efforts are yielding the desired result as Lagos has become a compelling brand that no investor or business can ignore”.
The governor informed that realities of the time had placed on the state with the responsibility of creating and harnessing opportunities through improved private sector participation to accelerate economic growth and create more jobs for teeming youths, assuring that “We will continue to work hard and implement innovative and creative ideas driven by technology to meet your expectations and the aspirations of Lagosians for a greater Lagos that is functional, productive safe, secure and can provide limitless opportunities for all”. On her part, the Lagos State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. (Dr.) Lola Akande disclosed that value creation is the bedrock of any business for it is what sets a brand apart from competitors, secures customers loyalty on long-term basis and brings distinct meaning to the brand with the solution it provides. The commissioner revealed that “Out of over $1.7 billion venture investments that came into Nigeria, 70 per cent came into Lagos startups and that over the past six months”.