By PHILIP IKPONKO
Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma has told a delegation of French businessmen that Nigeria’s priority is to create a better environment for businesses to thrive, as the country is focused on expanding the productive base of the economy.
While receiving the delegation which was accompanied by the French Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Denys Gauer, in Abuja, the Minister said the country is more than ever before open for business.
He welcomed the increasing interest in Nigeria by both domestic and foreign investors and assured that Government is determined to continue with the various initiatives that are already improving the business climate as set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
He indicated that as a way to monitor the progress of our reforms government set a target of moving 20 places up in 2017 on the World Bank Ease-of-Doing-Business rankings. However, he was happy to report that in the World Bank’s latest rankings, released in October 2017, the country moved up 24 places – a remarkable achievement. In addition, he added, that Nigeria has also been recognized as one of the ten top reforming countries in the world.
The more than 30-man delegation, comprising investors in the oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, banking and logistics sectors among others,is in Nigeria to explore possible areas of investment in the country.
The Minister said that there exist in Nigeria ample opportunities for investment particularly in agriculture, manufacturing, oil and gas, power, rail, mining and shipping among others.
He explained that the fall in crude oil price experienced at the inception of the administration was a wake-up call for the diversification of the country’s economy which has historically relied, almost entirely, on crude oil for its foreign earnings and government revenues.
The Government’s response to this was the development of an ambitious four- year plan to dramatically turn around the economic direction of the country. This plan is the ERGP. The ERGP is aimed at increasing the productivity of the Nigerian economy by encouraging private sector investment.
He told the delegation that government is committed to achieving the objectives of the plan and getting the economy back on the path of diversified, sustained and inclusive growth.
Members of the French delegation were encouraged to participate in the Malaysian style labs, which is one of the strategies being adopted by government to speedily achieve some of the core objectives of the plan.
The Minister said the aim of the focused labs is to increase both local and foreign direct investments which will ultimately translate to more jobs;and also serve as a one-stop shop from where investors can meet key regulators in one setting where inter-agency impediments to doing business in the country can be jointly addressed.
He invited the delegation to key into the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan to invest in Nigeria and take advantage of the opportunities that the country currently presents.
Speaking earlier, leader of the French delegation, Movement des Enterprises de France (MEDEF), Philippe Lebonne told the Minister that MEDEF is the largest French Business Confederation and the largest employer of labour in France, with an estimated 750,000 firms, 90% of which he said is made up of small and medium scale enterprises.
Mr. Lebonne assured the Minister that his country has come prepared to key into the Federal Government’s agenda as set out in the ERGP.