Govt solicits private sector support to improve ease of doing business in Nigeria


April 24, 2017 | 6:14 pm
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. . . Expresses commitment to eliminate bureaucratic bottle-necks

Nigeria is considered a difficult place to do business, and as the country strives to get its economy back on course to reverse the effects of recession, the federal government has expressed its commitment towards making it easier to do business in the country through elimination of the myriads of bureaucratic bottle-necks, while actively seeking the support of the private sector for the set objectives to be achieved.

Nigeria scored 44.63 points in Distance to Frontier in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2017, giving it a ranking of 169th overall, out of 190 countries. While the country moved up one place from the Ease of Doing Business in 2016, she still ranks 36 out of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This is despite being referred to as “the giant of Africa”.

Achieving the required turnaround in the economy (and easing up doing business) has been predicated on the introduction of drastic, fast-paced business reforms which must be conducted simultaneously to improve the business environment and attract foreign investors. Furthermore, these reforms must be adopted before October so as to reflect in Nigeria’s rankings in the 2018 Ease of Doing Business report.

Okechukwu Enelemah, Minister for Industry, Trade, and Investment while speaking in Lagos last week at a breakfast meeting by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) with the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat, remarked that he is desirous to “see change, and government is also committed to achieving this in any way possible, but first, the process needs to kick off with active participation and support from the private sector.

“We want the private sector to work with us in coming up with the right solutions. We may be saying the right things, but it doesn’t take the place of solutions. I really would like us to figure out how to work together. After talking about government failings, then what next? It still remains imperative to create the desired environment for businesses to thrive,” said Enelemah who is also vice chair of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).

The meeting last week also coincided with the conclusion of PEBEC’s 60-day National Action Plan which is committed to a clear set of desired outcomes for different reform areas including; Starting a business with objectives such as elimination of requirements to hire a lawyer and reduction in the number of days to register a business from 10 to 2 days.

Also included in its focus are construction permits; getting electricity; registering property; getting credit; paying taxes; trading across borders and; ease in the entry and exit of people to/from Nigeria.

Jumoke Oduwole, senior special assistant to the President on Industry, Trade, and Investment, noted during a presentation that the reforms being pursued hold a lot of potential value for Nigerian MSMEs. These include; N 2.6bn to be saved by MSMEs in registration costs to start business annually; 60% reduction in time to register property; 116,000 minutes of traveler time saved daily; 130% increase in MSME access to credit; 23,500 hours saved by exporters annually; and ultimately, 20 place increase in Nigeria’s position in World Bank Doing Business rankings.

Oduwole who also serves as Secretary to PEBEC, noted that from efforts made so far, changes which could be implemented in the short term to facilitate ease of doing business have been done, while there are long term interventions that need legislative participation.

On his part, Michel Deelen, head, Netherlands Representation in Lagos, and deputy ambassador to Nigeria, expressed the view that “Nigerians should ask themselves (and in my country too, we ask ourselves), are certain rules and agencies really necessary? Rules, agencies, and bureaucracies were created for a purpose which is; to serve the people, serve the country, and to make things better.

“If then with hindsight you find that certain institutions have become obsolete or no longer necessary, or just there to block progress then you get rid of them,” Deleen said.

Dotun Sulaiman, private sector representative in the PEBEC recalls that “Nigerian airports are about the only ones in the world where travelers are subjected to manual search of luggage whereas in other parts of the world, technology is optimally used to scan through luggage without having to rummage through in scenarios which could at time become “embarrassing”.

“When leaving the country, Nigeria is the only country in the world where two different sets of people check your passport and this is because the agencies want different kinds of information which they do not trust the other one to provide. But the technology also exists to implement this without the human encumbrances,” noted Sulaiman.

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April 24, 2017 | 6:14 pm
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