The Nigerian government has pledged to support small and medium scale businesses in the country as a way of reducing the foreign exchange burden.
President Muhammadu Buhari made this promise at the fourth annual Tinubu Colloquium in Lagos on Tuesday.
The Tinubu Colloquium is usually held to mark the birthday of a leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
The theme of this year’s colloquium, which marked the 65th birthday of Mr. Tinubu, “Make it in Nigeria: Use What We Make and Make What we Use” is targeted at the entrepreneurial effort of Nigerians and highlights the successes of local businesses.
The president, who was represented by the minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, lamented the situation where 35 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings is used for the importation of petrol and 20 per cent used on imported food.
He said that at the core of the government’s economic policy is the support of small and medium scale businesses and that the government will do everything to promote the use of made in Nigeria goods as a means of reviving the ailing economy.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said the country is on its way out of the economic recession and the federal government is applying the Lagos template in jumpstarting the economy.
Mrs. Adeosun said the government recently released N1trillion for capital expenditure in other to boost productivity. She also said the government has taken measures to increase its stream of revenue.
“Oil is an unreliable source of revenue,” she said.
“The economic template we copied from you (Lagos) is now being implemented for economic recovery of the country and we are not ashamed to say it. The impact of that template is that many of the states are now copying it especially in the area of IGR,” Mrs. Adeosun added.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, said in order to achieve the desired economic growth, the government is building an environment where businesses can thrive. He said decisions are already being taken that will improve the country’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.
Nigeria is currently ranked 169 out of 190 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index.
Mr. Tinubu, who was the last to speak at the event, advised the government to encourage financial institutions to provide funding for infrastructure. He also advised the government to relentlessly push its national industrial policy and infrastructural plan.
Some owners of mostly small and medium scale local businesses were invited to speak about their experience as entrepreneurs and the growth of their businesses.
Notable among business owners that spoke at the event were the founder of Innoson Group of Companies, makers of made-in-Nigeria IVM vehicles, Innocent Chukwuma, whose story of how he rose from a motorcycle spare parts dealer to a vehicle manufacturer roused the crowd who gave him a loud ovation.
“We manufacture, not assemble vehicles in Nigeria and our target is to dominate the Nigerian market,” the businessman said.
Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, also spoke at the event, saying opportunities abound for young entrepreneurs as Nigeria moves towards economic recovery.