*FG’s policies, providence helped start-up Unicorns emerge in Nigeria, VP adds

*Highlights impact of ESP, public-private initiatives in tackling COVID-19

The recently approved 2021 – 2025 National Development Plan will usher a new season of accelerate growth in Nigeria because of its focus on value addition as major pivot to boost productivity in all sectors, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Saturday at the graduation ceremony of participants of the Senior Executive Course 43 (2021) of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) In Kuru, Jos.
“If we are to inaugurate a new age of accelerated growth then we must adopt a new strategic direction and policy orientation. This is precisely what the Federal Government seeks to do through the National Development Plan 2021-2025, which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council,” the VP stated.
In the speech, the VP cited the emergence of Unicorns from Nigeria, observing that “six of those companies started between 2016 in the middle of two recessions and the global health crisis.” (A Unicorn is a company with a valuation equal to or over a billion dollars.)
He submitted that some of the successes recorded by those Unicorns- Nigerian start-ups owned by young men and women, can be attributed to providence and good policies.
According to him, such companies named Unicorns in Nigeria emerged between 2016 and 2021. The companies the VP listed are:
1. Opay
2. Paystack
3. Flutterwave
4. Andela
5. Piggyvest and
6. Jumia.
He explained further: “What is responsible for some of these successes? Providence and good policies. Providence because COVID-19 was a boom period for online payment systems. Policy, because Mr. President approved the establishment of a Technology and Creativity Advisory Group that helped to formulate new banking policies to accommodate new tech-enabled payment systems, such that these tech companies could process payments without being full-scale banks.”
The Vice President then disclosed that, “in terms of strategic direction, the cornerstone of our strategy is boosting productivity by focusing on value addition as the guiding principle for all sectors, especially agriculture, manufacturing, solid minerals, digital services, tourism, hospitality and entertainment.”
Prof. Osinbajo pointed out how the Plan aims to boost productivity in some of these key sectors such as agriculture and mining.
“In agriculture, for example, just as we seek to increase the production of rice, we are paying equal attention to other parts of the value chain such as storage, transportation, processing and marketing.
“Similarly, in the mining sector, we recognize that exploitation and extraction will not create jobs. Our aim is to focus on resource beneficiation, local industries, thereby creating wealth along the mineral value chain,” he explained.
The Vice President explained that the strategic direction of the Development Plan is hinged on major indices, including (direct and indirect) job creation, relaxing trade restrictions, improving tax administration and creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.
In line with the Plan’s focus on value addition and loosening restrictions on trade, the VP highlighted the Bangladesh example, noting that “Bangladesh only grows 2% of its annual cotton requirement and imported $11.8 billion worth of textiles and apparel while it exported about $31 billion worth of garments in 2019.”
He further said that “generalised restrictions on trade are counter-productive when they impede the ability of local industries to procure critical inputs.”
“Our focus instead will be on allowing imports of goods to which value can be added before domestic consumption or exportation. For example, importing cotton for garment making might be smarter than insisting on growing all your cotton,” he observed.
Noting that the major fiscal policy challenge facing Nigeria was inadequate revenues, especially with lower oil revenues, Prof. Osinbajo pointed out the need to improve the country’s tax administration through “vigorous collection of all revenues due to the Federal Government from its Ministries, Departments and Agencies; bringing all high earning agencies into the Federal budget.”
He also advocated for a reduction in customs duties and tariffs on raw materials and intermediate goods used in manufacturing to boost local productivity, “while giving reciprocal, non-tariff-based support like procurement, subsidies and tax breaks to priority sectors.”
In creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, the VP emphasized that “we need to eliminate red tape, extortion and harassment of small businesses which increases their costs.”
The Vice President’s speech focused on Nigeria’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the future; response to the economic downturn in the aftermath of the pandemic, the issue of continuous growth and the future of youth employment.
Recalling how the country tackled the socio-economic effects of the pandemic, Prof. Osinbajo emphasized the important steps promptly taken by President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a committee chaired by the VP which designed the N2.3 trillion stimulus plan – Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), as well as the previous inter-ministerial Committee headed by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
“We were clear that the only way of avoiding an economic disaster that could last for years was for the government to essentially put forward a major fiscal stimulus plan. Such a plan must have clear objectives of saving jobs and creating new ones, supporting businesses that may close down, and employees that may not be paid during lockdowns, and, of course, healthcare support to reduce the COVID-19 caseload,” Prof. Osinbajo said.
The VP also recalled how the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, as well as the lessons from the 2014 Ebola outbreak helped Nigeria tackle the pandemic.
“We were able to scale up on testing and case management capacity quickly, activating 120 laboratories nationwide from five just before the pandemic – most of them public laboratories.
“One of the key lessons we learned from our response to the Ebola outbreak was the need to build systems in ‘peace time’ that can be used during outbreaks. The President also directed the setting up of the locally and internationally acclaimed Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, which swiftly issued and enforced COVID protocols for travel and general movement,” he said.
The VP also highlighted the impressive work done by Nigerian scientists and institutions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. He noted the efforts of Prof. Christian Happi-led team at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), at Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State (sample analyses and ground-breaking rapid test); and Professor Y.K Ibrahim-led team at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology (mass testing).
He observed that the state-of-the-art equipment and well-trained scientists at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)’s National Public Health Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja, put it among the best prepared and resourced of its kind in Africa.
Addressing the Senior Executive Course 43 (2021) participants, the Vice President congratulated them for their “well researched and thought-provoking presentation to Mr. President on “Getting Things Done: Strategies for Policy and Programme Implementation in Nigeria.”
While he reminded the participants that they were “graduating at probably the most consequential period in Nigeria’s history; a time of immense challenges, but even more enormous opportunities,” the VP urged them as members of Nigeria’s foremost think-tank to find more ways to inspire growth and productive leadership across all sectors.
‘Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President
21st November, 2021