• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
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Diversifying Nigeria’s economy through the Transformation Agenda

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 In his essay, ‘Social Analysis of the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’, published in European Scientific Journal, vol.8, No.16, 2012, John E. Gyong, a sociologist from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, presented a classic analysis of the Transformation Agenda, its strengths, weaknesses and what it must take to realise its targets. According to him, Nigeria is not new to having its leaders come up with a number of visions and policies since independence. He, however, maintained that Jonathan’s 5-year development plan 2011-2015 differs from others based on its being a well thought-out policy document backed by a world-class team of 28 technocrats under his personal chairmanship and the coordination of the renowned economist, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The Transformation Agenda arose out of the need to correct the flaws in the country’s drive for development where there is absence of long-term perspective and lack of continuity, consistency and commitment (3Cs) to agreed policies. The culminating effect of these has been growth and development of the Nigerian economy without a concomitant improvement in the overall welfare of Nigerian citizens. According to the information contained in the enabling document, the Transformation Agenda is based on and draws inspiration from the Vision 20:2020 and the first National Implementation Plan (NIP) and aims to deepen the effects and provide a sense of direction.

Leaving no one in doubt as to the ‘how’ of the Transformation Agenda, the president stated that he has great confidence in the ability of Nigerians 

 

to transform the country. What should be required of his administration was to provide a suitable environment for productive activities to flourish. He went on to appeal to the good people of Nigeria to enlist as agents of the great Transformation Agenda.

The Transformation Agenda is based on a set of priority policies and programmes which, when implemented, would transform the Nigerian economy to meet the future needs of the people. Implicit in its DNA is the determination of the Jonathan administration to diversify the economy away from oil and make sure that the external sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, solid minerals, and services are vibrant and thriving.

The call by the president for everyone to enlist as agents of the Transformation Agenda was heeded by well-meaning Nigerians, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government with an uncommon patriotic zeal. The coordinating minister for the economy, Okonjo-Iweala, quickly got the president’s assent to introduce, for the first time in the annals of Nigeria’s public service, a performance-based system which requires the various ministries (and by implication departments and agencies under them) to present their scorecards at agreed periods. The idea was to underscore the needlessness of a ‘workshop syndrome’ where ‘blueprints and strategic documents’ are churned out regularly, but filed away. The ‘Bible’ for the Jonathan administration will be the Transformation Agenda document and commitment to its implementation should be the creed by which every public servant should live.

Among the institutions under the Federal Ministry of Finance is Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM). For the Bank, the question of embracing the Transformation Agenda was not just about political correctness, but, more fundamentally, because it is its raison d’être. Fully reinventing itself from a loss- to profit-making institution from 2010 under Orya’s leadership, the then new NEXIM management, with the endorsement of its shareholders, embarked on a Strategic Transformation Plan (2010-2015) with the assistance of KPMG Consulting. A key aspect of the initiative was the redefinition of the Bank’s target sectors to focus on high growth sectors with significant employment generation potentials. The sectors, termed “MASS Agenda”, are manufacturing, agriculture, solid minerals and services. The services sector is further broken down into three major subsectors: creative and entertainment, tourism (hotels, resorts, and arts and craft) and transport.

An important factor in the strategic transformation by NEXIM was the holistic approach taken by the management to ensure adequate capitalisation, adoption of a robust enterprise-wide risk management framework, good corporate governance principles, smarter business processes, clearer focus and compliance with regulations and relevant government policies.

Towards delivering its mandate, the Bank has till date intervened in the Nigerian economy by providing credit and risk-bearing support in excess of N82.21bn and $273.24m to over 900 projects. It has also aided the creation and sustenance of over 46,110 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs, in addition to generating over $1.2bn in foreign exchange earnings. More specifically, from August 2009 when the Orya-led management came on board, about N23bn has been disbursed and this has created 10,728 direct jobs and foreign exchange earnings of about $188.47m. These statistics are almost 5 months retro as the Bank continues to improve on its performance by the day.

As the trade policy bank of the government, NEXIM participates actively in the formulation and implementation of the government trade and industrial policy. The Bank is a member of the Trade Facilitation Task Force, whose main mandate is to improve Nigeria’s ranking on ‘Trading across Borders’. Towards this, the Bank partners with relevant trade-facilitating institutions to organise seminars and discuss policy issues with agencies such as CBN, NEPC, NIPC, NDE, SMEDAN, NACCIMA, MAN, chambers of commerce, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NEPC), etc. The Bank is also the National Guarantor under the ECOWAS Interstate Transit Scheme. Just recently, on February 22, 2013, the Bank was given the right to host the 2014 Borderless Alliance Conference in recognition of its role towards making Nigeria Africa’s export trade springboard.

At various times, the Bank has been involved in some of the president’s initiatives on targeted development in sectors/industries like tourism, cocoa, textile, cassava, sesame seeds and, more recently, the creative and entertainment industry through the Nigerian Creative and Entertainment Industry Stimulation Loan Scheme (NCEILS). This is part of the Federal Government’s effort to bolster the industry and has seen practitioners granted loans of over N800 million, according to data from the Bank. One of the movies, ‘Dr Bello’, funded from the facility, is well on the way to becoming a global hit with premieres across several continents and in box offices across about 50 theatres in the US alone.

Presently, NEXIM is in the last trimester of its gestation to birth the laudable Sealink Project which aims to boost maritime trade within the economic community by 300 percent. The new shipping company will connect West and Central African ports with a fleet of 3,000 to 5,000-tonne ships that will greatly reduce goods shipment times, in addition to lowering the cost of business for regional companies. The Federal Government has technically endorsed the Sealink Project as at February 13, 2013 after Okonjo-Iweala’s brilliant presentation on her ministry’s enviable scorecard to the FEC. The project has also consistently enjoyed the support and advocacy of the trade and investment minister, Olusegun Aganga, who cannot wait for its take-off. For all that, it will not be a government-driven project, but private sector-driven or at best a PPP. On its part, NEXIM is merely facilitating the initiative, in collaboration with other stakeholders such as ECOWAS and the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI).

One of the key objectives of President Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda is in the area of encouraging large-scale industries and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) to manufacture goods, revitalise ailing industries, promote agriculture and agro-businesses, encourage local content strategy and develop ICT to be the major driver of the economy. With the giant strides NEXIM is taking, it is safe to say that the Transformation Agenda is realistic and achievable.

 

SOCRATES CHIME

Chime, a former diplomat,

resides in Lagos

 

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