AfCTA: Osinbajo commends MAN, advocates clear-cut policies for competitiveness

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.Mansur Ahmed, President MAN

Vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has commended the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria for working over the years with other organs of the Organised Private Sector, government, and other stakeholders in the economy, to create an enabling environment for industrial development, growth, and prosperity.

This came as he also called for action on how industrial policy benefits from the African Continental Free Trade Area, as he noted that the free trade agreement itself “is indispensable if industrial development is to take off in Africa because it offers wider markets and economies of scale which are essential for manufacturing to be competitive.”

The second citizen spoke at MAN’s Roundtable on Industrialisation in Africa themed: ‘Positioning African Industries for Economic Transformation and Continental Free Trade.’

The occasion was also to mark 50th anniversary of the MAN.

While he equally commended MAN for its strong focus on advocacy which has been an important sounding board for shaping government’s industrial and commercial policies, Prof. Osinbajo said the theme of the roundtable was quite apt and timely.

He added that from evidence, historical and contemporary from across the world “is that manufacturing is critical to economic transformation,” and key in adding value to agricultural products and minerals and has also been a major motor of economic growth because it boosts productivity.

While he extended greetings from President Muhammadu Buhari to MAN on its golden jubilee celebration, he explained that given Nigeria’s huge population, manufacturing has the potential to create a large number of sustainable jobs.

He said, “Given the large number of entrants into the workforce every year and the important role of employment in reducing poverty, there is no doubt at all that industrialisation must remain a key priority for African countries.

“The urgency of the situation becomes more obvious when we also take a rapidly changing global context into account. The COVID-19 virus continues to cause havoc and complicates our efforts to adapt to climate change and leapfrog into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“And as our topic today also shows, we must ponder on how industrial policy benefits from the African Continental Free Trade Area.  For certain, the free trade agreement itself is indispensable if industrial development is to take off in Africa because it offers wider markets and economies of scale which are essential for manufacturing to be competitive.

“So, the crux of my message today is that we must take policy actions to create an environment in which businesses can thrive.

“To start with, we must adopt the right type of macroeconomic and industrial policies.  It is important for African governments to provide a stable macroeconomic environment that avoids and smoothens out volatility in prices, sharp deteriorations in the current account and budget deficits, and of course, rapid accumulation in debt burdens.”

Prof. Osinbajo noted that one of the ways to increase the competitiveness of African industries “is to develop and deepen regional value chains wherein production systems starting from conception and design right through to supply of raw materials, processing, transport, storage, marketing, and sales take place within our countries and continent.”

He said when “we export commodities to the rest of the world, we are also exporting jobs and the positive spillover effects such as learning that come with manufacturing are lost.”

On his part, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, in his paper noted that in order to unleash our full industrial potential, African countries must embark on an audacious agenda, preferably driven by private sector-led investments to ensure the economic transformation of the continent, specifically through industrialisation.

To position Nigerian industries to lead the economic transformation of the country and the continent at large, he advised that all stakeholders needed to work together to come up with specific measures and initiatives to improve the cost competitiveness of players in the sector.

He said, “As you all may be aware, cost competitiveness is a major challenge of the manufacturing sector and my Ministry is working hard to improve the situation in various ways.

“For example, we are collaborating with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to lower the cost of gas which is critical to the production of energy for the sector. This is one factor that can significantly impact the competitiveness of items manufactured in Nigeria.

“Another way that Nigerian industries can position themselves for the African economic transformation is by aligning themselves with the country’s industrialisation programme.

“The overall aim of this programme is to drive job-intensive growth of the Nigerian economy by increasing domestic economic activities, especially local production through the domestication of key selected priority products, namely Automobiles, Palm Oil, Dairy Products, Sugar, Cassava Starch and Cotton Textiles and Garments.”

The President, MAN, Engr Mansur Ahmed, said the association’s belief that conversations at the event “will help chart the course for sustainable Africa’s industrialisation and economic transformation.”

He thanked the resource persons including the Vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Chairman, Dangote Group and leading African industrialist- Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and the Executive Secretary of the AfCFTA, Mr Wamkele Mene among others.

He noted that the conversation on Africa’s industrialisation would be decidedly inconclusive without a consideration of Africa’s economic relations with China – which is inevitably set to become the lending industrial nation in the world.

He said, “So, we are delighted to have the participation of the Vice-President of the China-Africa Business Council – Chief Diana Chen, who is joining us from China.”

 

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