By Emmanuel Afonne
The Federal Government says it is reviewing the country’s Trade Policy to ensure a conducive and improved business environment for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu, Chairman, National Trade Facilitation Committee, said this on Tuesday in Abuja, at a forum on trade policy and enabling environment eco-system for Nigeria Competitiveness Project’s (NICOP’s) value chains.
Aliyu, represented by Mr Abdullahi Usman, a senior official at Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, said the new trade policy would guarantee incentives for farmers as well as remove several restrictions hindering production of goods for international market.
“Nigeria’s Trade Policy is presently undergoing a review and we are working hard to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are on board to make sure government comes up with something that is conducive and as well improve business climate in the country.
“Government has mapped out two policies to achieve this:
“First is the agriculture transformation agenda and the other is agriculture promotion policy aimed at transforming agriculture from developing oriented and agro-business focus industry based on integrated value chains.
“To this end, several programmes are in place to ensure incentives are available to farmers to increases domestic production of certain commodities such as cassava, rice and wheat,” Aliyu said.
According to him, efforts are on to remove several restrictions hindering smooth implementation of some of the policies aimed at industrialising the nation.
He noted that policy such as the ‘Zero Rejects Initiative’ was put in place to transform the face of exports from the country.
“Most of these restrictions are not just done, you have to consult and use trade language in order not to violate our commitment in the international community.
“There are challenges which are administrative but we are still talking to government to allow that policy to scale through because it is that policy that gave birth to Zero Reject Initiative introduced by Ministry of Agriculture.
“This was to close up the gap between farmers and businessmen especially as it concerns residue level of pesticides needed for the preservation of produce before taking them to international market.
“So, these are some of the challenges but most agencies have built on what they learnt and are trying to improve the quality of their products generally,” Aliyu added.
Mrs Ana Vinambres, Deputy Head of Project, NICOP said work had commenced on comprehensive mapping and analysis of major existing rules and regulations which affected production, trade and competitiveness within the four value chains.
“We are trying to do analysis of the gaps and challenges we noticed across the value chains and we have the work plans to start full implementation which has started across selected areas in the value chains.
“NICOP has four value chains and three different pillars for implementation.
“First is the technical pillar which looks into the market linkages and productivities, entrepreneurship and technical solutions aimed at addressing technical challenges in the value chain.
“The second pillar is the Access to finance and investment, and in this, we are trying to get the benefits associated with finance and investment.
“The third is policy pillar which looks at the policy and relations in the value chains.
“This policy pillar is aimed at creating enabling environment for business in the value chains.
“So we are looking at all the challenges and policies of the value chains and getting the stakeholders inputs to access them and know how to prioritise, improve and enhance them,” Vinambres said.
She noted that NICOP was already working on raw materials for selected value chains (tomatoes/chili, ginger, leather and garments) to promote trade and exports.
Vinambres, however, noted that issues concerning policy limitations and gaps as well as obnoxious regulations must be addressed for any serious impact to be made.
The NICOP Deputy Head urged the Ministry of Budget and planning, Ministry of Agriculture as well as Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to close rank and ensure that the project succeeded within its four-year time frame in Nigeria and West Africa.
Leonard Ugbajah, Executive Director, Centre for Trade and Business Environment Advocacy (CTBA), said the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) would go a long in helping NICOP achieve its target in the country.
“The signing will help us develop our SMEs and make the business environment effective and efficient to support the growth of SMEs.
“Because they are actually the ones to take the advantage because now, they don’t need to meet all the requirement to export to Europe but they can meet requirements to export to other African countries.
“So, government has a lot to do to develop a national strategy and set a target on the things we need to achieve like giving a target for tomatoes for export.”