Manufacturers got an assurance yesterday on improved access to foreign exchange (forex) on raw materials that are not available locally.
They got the assurance from President Muhammadu Buhari during an advocacy visit by the leadership of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) to the State House in Abuja.
According to the President, the relevant ministry had been directed to revisit their concerns about the increase in excise duties on the identified products and other tariff-related matters.
He was reacting to requests by MAN President Mansur Ahmed, who led delegation, on the need to create an enabling environment for the manufacturing sector to contribute more to the economy.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President also assured MAN that Nigeria will take steps to fully maximise the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
The statement said the government will fast-track the establishment of the authority to superintend the administration of Rules of Origin and Commission as well as the automation for issuance of Electronic Certificate of Origin for AfCFTA.
It added that the Federal Government would also ensure that relevant structured platforms are established for monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the Ease of Doing Business and improved government patronage of made in Nigeria products.
Buhari was quoted as saying: “Our strategic plan to boost manufacturing activities in the country is on course. We will continue to improve the patronage of locally made goods, bridge the gap between skills required by industry and those provided by our tertiary institutions and ensure seamless access to long term finance for our Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
“We recognise that MAN remains a key stakeholder in this journey and we will continue our engagement with you.”
Affirming the belief that a private sector-led economy is the way to create jobs in the country, President Buhari urged the MAN leadership to impress it on manufacturers that the government recognises their resilience in promoting a virile economy.
“I beseech you to continue to support the government in our quest to provide the appropriate environment that will attract the necessary investment both domestic and foreign, for the upliftment of the nation’s economy,” he said.
On the impact of COVID-19 on world economies, the President noted that while the pandemic had an adverse impact on the local economy with the attendant fluctuations in the price of oil, his administration has effectively contained the spread of the pandemic and other diseases.
He added that the government would continue to prudently deploy limited revenue to sustain the economy and stimulate growth.
He listed road and rail infrastructure development; provision of stimulus packages for the manufacturing sector; improvement in energy management and support for exporters, as the sectors in which his administration had made appreciable impact.
“These projects are there for all to see,” he said.
On the requests of MAN, THE President said: “I have listened carefully to all the challenges enumerated by the President of MAN and would like to assure you that, like we have done in the recent past, we will give consideration to some of the constraints that are yet to be fully addressed, especially those that align with our policies and programmes for economic recovery and sustainable development.
“Let me assure you that this administration is fully aware that the survival of Nigeria lies in agriculture and having a viable domestic manufacturing sector.
‘‘I must emphasise here that when I say agriculture, I also refer to agro-allied business which is the value-added component in the value chain.
“A strong manufacturing sector creates more jobs and wealth for our people. It will usher in sustainable economic prosperity because we will produce what we consume as a nation and generate foreign exchange by exporting surpluses and by import substitution.”
The Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, said her ministry would continue to work with MAN in the areas of policy, trade and creating an environment to facilitate the growth of businesses in Nigeria.
“MAN is in business to create a climate of opinion in this country so that manufacturers can operate efficiently and profitably for the benefit of all,”’ she said.
The MAN president said the advocacy visit was largely motivated by two things: namely, to thank the President for all the support extended to the manufacturing sector since his assumption of office in 2015 and seek the federal government support for the manufacturing sector to overcome the binding constraints to competitiveness in the country.
On the challenges facing the sector, the MAN president said the association has articulated remedial measures for these challenges in the blueprint for Accelerated Development of Manufacturing in Nigeria, which will be formally presented to the President within the first quarter of 2022.
Ahmed listed inadequate forex supply; power outage; poor access to long-term funds; patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods and local content development and looming increases in tax rate, among others, as some challenges requiring immediate attention.