Former World Bank chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mr Olusegun Aganga minister of Trade and Investment as well as Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi are expected to spearhead Nigeria’s economic recovery, but how the two ministers deal with tensions between them and the CBN will determine their success.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is expected to take up the role of Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Monday 15, an expanded version of the role she held between 2003 and 2006 when she successfully secured Nigerian debt relief. Dr Okonjo Iweala is believed to have negotiated with the President clear terms on which she would be willing to return to serve in government, including being given broad powers over economic management and freedom from political meddling.
Dr Okonjo Iweala and Olusegun Aganga are big personalities that are well respected internationally. Sanusi the CBN Governor has in recent time spread his remit well beyond the fundamental role of the central bank which may lead to a clash of personality in not too distant time.
However, the creation of the Ministry of Trade and Investment seems to be paying off for the country as local and international investors are buying into the programme of government raising hope for multi-million dollar investments in Nigeria.
When the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr, Olusegun Aganga, was appointed to drive the new initiative, the Organised Private Sector saw the appointment as strategic, especially considering the fact that his wealth of experience in investment and real sector matters, which he displayed even as the Minister of Finance, was more needed in the industry than anywhere else.
The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Chief Kola Jamodu, alluding to this fact recently said the organized private sector was indeed happy that Aganga had been posted to conclude the good works he started as the country’s finance minister, even though he wished that the Ministry of Trade and Investment could have been expanded to accommodate the name “industry”.
The captains, majors and generals of the Nigerian business community at the maiden interaction between the ministry and the local business community in Lagos two weeks ago was the first sign that the country is about to witness a remarkable change in real sector activities. The Group Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman Ikeja Hotels, Mr. Goodie Ibru; Chairman, Nigerian Bottling Company Plc, Segun Akpata; Chairman, HoneyWell Group, Oba Otudeko, among other notable industrialists pledged investments running into trillions of naira in critical projects that will impact positively in the living standards of Nigerians in the next four years.
Some banks, including First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Stanbic IBTC bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc and Zenith Bank Plc, among other strong banks; have also indicated willingness to invest in key sectors of the economy that will help to drive the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Notwithstanding the usual perception of policy inconsistency in the country and the poor infrastructure snag in investment matters, foreign investors have also continued to show keen interest in investment opportunities in Nigeria. ‘Deep pocket’ investors from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, China and other countries have visited the trade and investment ministry to seek for investment opportunities that can be explored for mutual benefits. Experts have said that Aganga’s Goldman Sachs background was a key factor that has raised the confidence of the international community in the Nigerian economy.
With Aganga driving real sector growth and the momentum gathered in preparation for job and wealth creation, the job of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, another star cabinet member of Jonathan’s administration, may be much easier.
Notwithstanding the misconception about the two key appointments in some quarters, a frontline industrialist, who asked not to be named, because he could not comment publicly on the matter, said Okonjo-Iweala and Aganga were friends coming from the Diaspora with the same passion about their country, Nigeria, adding that, with their belief in each other’s abilities, the Nigerian economy would be the better for it.
“From what I know about the two key ministers’ capabilities as well as the good relationship they have going for them, I think this is the time to really expect a turnaround of the Nigerian economy,” the industrialist, who spoke with journalists recently in Lagos.
To meet the target set for unlocking capital and growing the real sector of the Nigerian economy, taking the trade and investment minister began his job with a three-day retreat with the directors and chief executive officers of the ministry.
The retreat was targeted at making the staff of the ministry key into the new drive with a view to changing their orientation in preparation for the hard work ahead. Aganga noted at the retreat that the whole idea of the transformation agenda was to create economic growth in the country and ensure the creation of jobs, stressing that the ministry would focus on the implementation of mandatory skills transfer to Nigeria by foreign construction companies as well as develop industrial clusters for the real sector.
The Bank of Industry, Department of Trade in the ministry and the other parastatals and agencies under the ministry have also mapped out clear plans to create additional three million jobs in the next three years as the first step towards the eradication of poverty in Nigeria. This was one of the highpoints of the communiqué issued at the end of a three-day retreat of the ministry in Abuja.
According to a statement from the ministry, as part of the strategies towards achieving this, the different departments and parastatals will develop a comprehensive backward integration programme aimed at improving innovation and productivity for rice, sugar, wheat, yam, potatoes, starch and palm produce, among others. The statement said the ministry would establish model industrial clusters in each geo-political zone across the country.
It said, “In line with the mandate to lead the nation’s investment, job creation and economic growth aggressive investment drive, the ministry must be refocused and repositioned in order to effectively serve as the flag and hub of industrial revolution that will help Nigeria take its rightful place in global affairs. In this regard, departments, agencies and parastatals under the ministry have pledged to create not less than 3,100,850 new jobs within the next three years.
“To achieve effective export promotion, participants agreed on the need for increased efforts towards streamlining the nation’s export produce and documentation as a way of facilitating trade through stronger collaboration with all relevant trade facilitation.”
With the right awareness campaign and the momentum already being gathered for investment growth, the stage is set for Okonjo-Iweala to perform in the right direction.