The curtains fell on the 26th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#26) on Tuesday with participants from the public and private sectors as well as sub-nationals resolving to pool resources together to develop partnerships towards building a resilient economy for the country.
At the closing session, the Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and her counterpart in the Youth and Sports Ministry, Sunday Dare, gave their commitments to the effort to mobilise available resources, including those for the youth, toward speedy recovery of the country’s economy.
Mrs Ahmed in her closing remarks reiterated her commitment and that of the government to pursue the early exit of the country’s economy from the current recession.
On Saturday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said after contractions consecutively for the first and second quarters of the year, the country’s economy slipped into another recession, the second in five years.
The contraction from -6.1 per cent in the first quarter to -3.62 per cent in the second quarter was largely blamed on the continued negative impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which virtually crippled most of the world’s economies.
But, the Finance Ministry said although the decline in the economy was not as bad as initially expected, because of the pre-emptive stimulus measures adopted by the government, there was a renewed commitment to sustain the interventions to pull the economy out of recession earlier than anticipated.
She said her key takeaway from the summit was the need for all sectors of the economy to commit to “building strong partnerships for a resilient economy.”
To achieve this objective, the minister said Nigerians need to cooperate more, either between the federal and sub-national governments, or between government and private sector, or government and the citizens.
“We need to re-establish the social contract between the government and the people, while the government needs to listen and consult more with the people to build a solid consensus on issues of national development,” the minister said.
Nigerian youth matter
For Mr Dare, the summit highlighted the important role the youth have to play in nation-building, adding that the government was committed to partner with the Nigerian youth towards harnessing their potentials.
The minister said it was in recognition of the fact that no country has ever been able to combat youth unemployment without placing between 58 and 61 per cent of its youth population on the path of entrepreneurship, that the N75 billion Youth Investment Fund was established.
He said the idea of the investment fund was to provide massive funding in credit to finance investments in the ideas generated by the Nigerian youth, to turn them into creators of wealth and employers of labour, as well as people who run successful enterprises.
“We started with the focal group of 27 groups picked based on their respective credentials and specialization after studying their resumes and considering those with the right capacity for assistance.
“For two weeks, the selected groups worked to produce a preliminary report, before a technical group, made up of the Permanent Secretaries and Directors from Ministries, the Central Bank of Nigeria, was constituted. Later, there was the steering committee consisting of ministers and the CBN governor reappraising the recommendations of the other committees,” the minister said.
At the moment, he said the response to the programme appears over-subscribed as over 3.5 million applications, against about 1.5 million that was expected, have so far been received from youths with degrees and diploma holders all over the country with different business ideas and plans for the utilisation of the funds.
In January next year, he said the programme would continue, with other youth without degrees and diplomas brought in for inclusiveness.
‘Come let’s build together’
The Chairperson of NESG, Asue Ighodalo, said NES#26, which had the theme ‘Building Partnerships for Resilience’, focused on how all sectors of the economy can come together in partnership to build the resilience and fortitude to look for the answers to the country’s problems.
He said he was elated for the participation, especially by the federal and sub-national governments, which gave a firm commitment to partner with each other toward the development of the country.
Also, he commended the Finance Minister for her determination to provide leadership in the effort to pull the country’s economy out of recession sooner than anticipated.
“As a country that is going to be 400 million people very soon, we really need to start thinking of moving ourselves much faster. We need to build a national consensus and resolve to take the country to the next level. We need to grow faster than the rate our population is growing.
“With a government that is committed to get the economy out of recession, Nigerians have the responsibility to give their maximum support. The NESG is committed to giving whatever assistance and support the government needs to achieve this goal,” he said.
The NESG CEO, Laoye Jaiyeola, said one major take away from the summit was the acknowledgement by participants in all the sessions that Nigerian youth matter and should be given listening ears and taken into confidence in the process of national development.
Mr Jaiyeola said the summit also agreed that players in the private and public sectors would continually engage each other on ways to better the country’s economy.
He announced that the format of the NESG annual start-up pitching event would change to a forum where producers and users would come together under one roof to identify problems and try to proffer solutions.
So far, he said 55 groups, covering finance, renewable energy, governance, and agriculture have been identified.
Of this number, he said 72 per cent decided to form a formal partnership to solve the problems they have identified, in the spirit of building partnerships for a resilient Nigeria.
“There is a need to come together in partnership to revive the economy. Neither the government nor private sector alone can do it. Civil society alone can’t do it. All segments of the economy need to come together to pool our resources to do it. Although it will take time and patience, we must be consistent at implementing the plans on a sustainable basis,” Mr Jaiyeola.
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