The United Nations Commission for Trade and Development's figures just released by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment indicate that Nigeria's investment climate reform programme helped to attract $7.03billion foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2012. Other indices that indicated an improvement in the economic health of the nation are contained in the reports released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
CBN's economic report just released claims that there was a 952.4 per cent ($614.6 million) rise in receipts from export of manufactured products (including glass and glass products and plastics) and a 68.6 per cent increase in receipts from exports of industrial sector (particularly chemical).The report goes on to explain that Nigeria recorded an increase of N242.3billion or 4.8 per cent in external merchandise trade in the second quarter of 2013.The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) attributed the rise in external receipts to an increase of N290.8bn or 8.4 per cent in the value of exports from N3.4 trillion in the first quarter to N3.74 trillion in the second quarter.
This are positive developments. Even the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) affirms that industrial capacity utilisation rose from 46.44 per cent in 2010 to 48.24 per cent to date. Capacity utilisation in the textile, apparel and footwear sector also increased from 29.14 per cent to 52.01 per cent. These, coupled with the fact that the nation no longer imports cement as it has excess installed capacity in local production, point to an economy in rebound.
This optimism is based on the belief that an envisaged National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) will reposition Nigeria's industries as the bedrock of sustainable economic growth and development. The unique selling point of this policy, we learnt, is based on the fact that it intends to build on those sectors where the country has competitive and comparative advantage. The policy also assures that the holistic cluster concept and integrated nature of this industrial policy as well as the plan to integrate it with investment and export strategy of the federal government will make it yield the desired results. We are tempted to give this
policy thrust by the Ministry of Trade and Investment, which is spear-heading it, the benefit of the doubt, as it claims to be developing institutions that will drive the policy towards achieving set goals. But it should be pointed out that the nation has never lacked in well-articulated policy framework.
In recent times, the country has consistently improved its trade statistics with the holistic reform of the trade regime and the growth-enabling policies in the manufacturing sector. Ostensibly, this is based on the perceived effort by the government to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.
The creation of special windows of financing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in collaboration with SME desks of commercial banks, however, hold the key to genuine industrial takeoff of the country. With access to fund under special conditions, at single-digit interest rates, SMEs which include artisans, women and young school leavers can really give the economy the kiss of life it urgently needs.