The Bank of Industry (BoI) revealed that its disbursements to micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large enterprises have reached more than one trillion naira in six years.
According to the Development Finance Institution (DFI), the feat was achievable through strong strategic partnerships with various state institutions, federal government agencies and private sector organizations.
The Director General of the Bank of Industry (BOI), Oluwakayode Pitan, revealed this during his speech during the 37th series of Omolayole management conferences on the theme “African Continental Free Trade Area ( AfCFTA) – Perspectives for African Youth Leadership ”, organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
He said the BOI is at the forefront of industrializing the Nigerian economy and will continue to take deliberate steps to address the issues related to funding gaps across all industries.
According to him, over the past three years, more than $ 3 billion has been raised in the international financial market with the aim of continuously improving its capacity to close the huge financing gap that exists in the Nigerian industrial sector.
He added that there are currently a growing number of start-ups in Africa as young people embrace their entrepreneurship and technological skills, driving the continent’s rapid digital transformation.
He indicated that to face this risk and realize the expected gains of a free trade area, it is necessary to increase investment in infrastructure in Nigeria, saying that one way to achieve this is to resort to to public-private partnerships (PPP), which should be greatly leveraged to build sustainable infrastructure across the country, while the government provides an enabling governance framework.
“The newly created infrastructure company (InfraCo) will play a leading role in its implementation,” he added.
He added that despite constituting a significant percentage of the continent’s population, youth participation in cross-border trade and trade governance issues is still very limited.
He said improving transparency and the ease of doing business in Nigeria has a bigger implication now that AfCFTA has taken off, saying it would allow foreign investors to make informed decisions about where to locate their businesses. manufacturing centers in African countries, which will offer them more advantages. . “Because there are no restrictions on the movement of goods across borders, the need to establish a business in a country where it is easier to operate will now be a more desirable factor than existence. market prospects, ”he said.
Previously, LCCI President Toki Mabogunje voiced concerns about the high level of youth unemployment, which was set at over 33% in the fourth quarter of 2020.
She declared the urgent need for programs and projects that engage the innovative and dynamic youth of the country to unleash their latent potential for the benefit of the country.
She added that AfCFTA provides an opportunity for our young entrepreneurs and startups to explore a continent-wide market if it is well launched, structured and implemented.
She said the agreement became operational on January 1, 2021 and marks the largest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization in 1995.
She added that while the take-off of AfCFTA should be welcomed, there is still a long way to go as key parts of the deal have yet to be finalized, stressing that several key issues, including schedules of tariff concessions, service commitment lists, rules of origin, investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights have not been concluded.
The LCCI boss said that the AfCFTA has the potential to accelerate the socio-economic development of the African continent, saying that if implemented well, it will boost economic growth, generate employment opportunities and contribute to facilitate the economic diversification of African economies while ensuring people, products and services flow freely across the continent.
She said that according to estimates by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the AfCFTA has the capacity to increase Africa’s manufacturing output to $ 930 billion by 2025, up from $ 500 billion. dollars in 2016.
“The Brookings Institution also predicts that Africa’s economic size will grow to $ 6.7 trillion by 2030, from $ 3.4 billion in 2019, thanks to a well-implemented AfCFTA. A successful AfCFTA requires the active participation of young African leaders in the implementation process, which is the rationale for choosing the topic of this edition which aims to prepare, equip and put in place mechanisms that will help young leaders improve their skills. managerial dexterity and to perfect their administrative expertise. , “she added.
She said there is always a lack of clarity on what kind of added value must occur in a AfCFTA state party for a product to benefit from a tariff reduction, adding that there are negotiations. ongoing at the continental level that are delaying the implementation of the trade agreement.
“There is still a lot of awareness and clarification to be done on the modalities of implementation,” she advised.
She also noted that there were concerns over adherence by participating countries to the protocols under the AfCFTA, saying Africa’s trade narrative has been challenged by malicious business practices such as the smuggling, unilaterism and violation of trade protocols, ”she added.
In his lecture, Dr Michael Omolayole said that the provisions of the treaty establishing AFCFTA are, if they are sincerely implemented by African countries, likely to propel them from the third world to the first world.
“Believe me, | I am not exaggerating. From us as Nigerians, | think we were too careful in hesitating to ratify the treaty until the last moment. We could have avoided the hesitation, if we had set up a think tank of bright and savvy Nigerians on economics and free trade, from the start of the African Union (AU) deliberation on the subject, ”he said.
In his words: “Although | have not seen the treaty, | believe that as an international instrument, arrangements would have been made for countries, especially large ones like Nigeria, to protect themselves against violation of the treaty and acts of sabotage. It is better late than never, but think tanks can still be set up and our bright young people with the requisite knowledge should be encouraged to dissect and digest the treaty and set up study groups to master the treaty. bottom to top.