• Monday, June 17, 2024
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World Trade Day: Nigeria must use SMEs to fight global competition – Professor of Economics, others

World Trade Day: Nigeria must use SMEs to fight global competition – Professor of Economics, others

Nigeria must look into the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector to fight in the global competitive market.

This advice came from Okechukwu Onuchukwu, a University of Port Harcourt professor of economics and now vice chancellor of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education also in Port Harcourt (IAUE), and other professors at an event to mark the International Trade Day in Port Harcourt.

The Rivers-born economist reminded trade leaders in Nigeria that the economy is driven by over 80% from the SMEs, saying even big economies were driven by small businesses.

Onuvhukwu, who was once the head of the Uniport Business School gave many ways in which government could boost the SME sector to boost wealth creation, product enhancement, and global competitiveness.

He made it clear that no country is able to produce everything it needs, saying that it is about a country identifying products and services where it has competitive advantage over others.

He maintained that the importance of trade, which is the buying and selling of goods and services, cannot be over-emphasized. This he said is because it creates a lot of benefits. He said that apart from the principle of absolute and comparative advantage which makes it possible for people to produce what they can do better or which makes an entity to produce commodities that have the lowest opportunity cost, the mere fact is that there is no person, country, or nation that can produce all they need. They must trade to buy from some other persons what they don’t have. Because of this interdependence, he said, trade becomes very important.

Onuchukwu went further by saying that trade does not only create employment but also generates revenue and strengthens the value of currency.

He added: “But in Nigeria, we seem to always rely on one particular product and that particular product has no added value in it. There is no country that can develop without adding value to its primary products. This is because we depend solely on the revenue from that primary product, crude oil, Nigeria has remained stagnant.”

The event took place when the Institute of International Trade and Development held her 2024 World Trade Day at Institute of Petroleum and Energy Studies, University of Port Harcourt. The theme of the occasion was “Leveraging on SMEs to Grow Trade and Investment in Nigeria.”

Earlier, the chief host, Georgewill Owunari, the Vice Chancellor of University of Port Harcourt, in his opening address, backed the call for attention to the SME sector.

He welcomed the guests to the epoch-making occasion and reminded them that the theme which is “Leveraging on SMEs to Grow Trade and Investment in Nigeria” is not only timely but also critical to the economic advancement of Nigeria.

He said SMEs were the backbone of the nation and that they were the engine of innovation, the primary source of employment and a significant contributor of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. He said: “We as a University are committed to contributing to the development on the strategies that will enable SMEs to reach their potential.”

In his welcome address, the Director, Institute of International Trade and Development (IITD), a professor, Ijeoma Emele Kalu, said that the World Trade Day celebration was an annual event held in the month of May around the world and that it has also become the tradition at the University of Port Harcourt to join the world to celebrate such a great day.

According to him, the 2024 event is ‘Business Revolution’ and it is not merely perfunctory but it is celebrated to showcase the importance of trade in growing the economy, especially in strengthening the value of our currency.

Kalu reminded the audience that this year’s celebration at University of Port Harcourt is the fifth. He said that the first took place in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2023. He further noted that the Nigeria economy, lately, seemed to be sliding downhill and the economic managers under the current dispensation seemed to be also frantically finding ways to grow the economy.

He said it is their duty at the Institute to lend their opinion on how the economy could be grown into prosperity once again through trade.

Kalu stressed that trade would not occur in the absence of serious production of goods and services.

He also said: “We need a bold step on how to turn our underdeveloped potential into reality, as a country. And given emerging and new trade theories and indices that measure trade competitiveness among countries, it is apt that we note that for emerging economies like ours, there is dire need to seriously encourage the growth and sustenance of micro, small, and medium enterprises. They are arguably at the foundation of what we produce and ultimately trade as a country.

“There is, however, also a dire need to formalise their activities, organising them to be able to take full advantage of incentives on ground meant for their development. We also appeal that the government should bring about the enabling environment for the inflow of investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, strengthening institutions; and focus on the development of innovation and human capital, giving both women and the youth their pride of place in the growth of our economy.”

Top personalities in the Uniport graced the occasion including professors; the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Admin), Clifford Obiyo Ofurum; the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Kingsley Ifeanyi Owete; the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Development), Iyeopu Siminialayi; former Vice Chancellor of University of Port Harcourt, Sunday Lale.