The European Union (EU) Commission on Tuesday said it would continue to partner Nigeria on business opportunities, investments and other developmental issues.
The Executive Vice President of the European Union (EU), Margrethe Vestager, gave the assurance during a visit to the Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Adeniyi Adebayo, at the Old Federal Secretariat Complex in Abuja.
Ms Vestager, who is completing her 5-day working visit to Nigeria, reiterated the EU’s commitment to intensify cooperation with Nigeria in the areas of agri-food, energy & infrastructure.
According to Ms Vestager, “I have trust in agriculture as it has the capacity to create access to trade channels that would otherwise be difficult.”
She said the EU was open to holding high level talks with Nigerian authorities with a view to knowing specific priorities that benefit the citizenry.
“We are open to holding high level talks with Nigerian authorities to know specific areas of priority especially as it pertains the industrialization of the nation. In the coming days, we hope to intensify discussion that will lead to signing investment agreements with Nigeria which will facilitate industrialization.
“We have a lot of discussion going on in Europe that governments should produce in the areas that they think they have friends or next-door neighbours, and the consensus is that Nigeria qualifies because of its scope of investments and ease of doing business,” Vestager said.
The EU Vice President tasked Nigerian authorities to strengthen its competition framework to encourage companies to offer consumer goods and services on the most favourable terms, in a manner that guarantees efficiency and innovation and reduced prices.
Speaking during the meeting, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments, Adeniyi Adebayo, said the focus of his ministry was industrialization programme with an overarching goal of driving job-intensive growth of the Nigerian economy through industrialization.
Mr Adebayo said the priority of the Trade and Investments Ministry is backward integration and domestication of key commodities like sugar, cassava starch, oil palm, automobile assembly and component manufacturing, cotton, textiles and garments.
“Like I told you yesterday and like you have heard everywhere you have been, President Muhammadu Buhari has the goal of taking a 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years and we believe that that can be done through industrialization.
“So, we have this backward integration policy and the whole idea is to domesticate our key commodities such as sugar, cassava starch, oil palm, automobile assembly and component manufacturing, cotton, textiles and garments. The whole idea is to be self-sufficient in these areas,” Mr Adebayo said.
He said opportunities exist within our Backward Integration Program (BIP) for investments in these commodities to increase production for local consumption and exports.
Expatiating on the nation’s trade policy, Mr Adebayo said Nigeria was ready to participate effectively in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – on the Rules of Origin, Technical Barriers to Trade Monitoring Capability, Establishment of Trade remedy Mechanism with a view to position Nigeria as a supply chain partner to leading global economies.
Mr Adebayo said Nigeria’s increasing mobile penetration rate, focused regulatory drive to boost broadband penetration and financial inclusion, are combining to create the perfect recipe for a thriving fintech sector and the adoption of digital solutions to solve everyday problems.
Speaking on the problems militating the growth of Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investments, Mariam Yelwaji Katagum, listed multiple taxation, high interest rates, inadequate working capital, and stiff competition from larger companies as some of the challenges confronting small businesses but said Federal Government was dealing with the challenges vide business reforms, superintended by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Ms Katagum explained that areas of collaboration existed with multilateral and private sector financing of Special Economic Zones through public-private-partnerships and greenfield development.
“One area of collaboration which is important is support for women enterprises. I would like to know what the EU is doing in this regard. Others are credit facilitation for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) financing programs and market access for exports.
“We will also require support in facilitating discussions and matchmaking on investment opportunities to large investors as well as support in providing Best-Practice review and management/navigation of key business legislative reforms and Ease of Doing Business Reforms,” Ms Katagum said.
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