• Successful execution of the Focus Labs will accelerate Nigeria’s growth momentum
By Nse Anthony-Uko
(Sundiata Post) — President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday launched the Economic and Recovery Growth Plan Focus Labs as part of plans to identify and accelerate high-impact projects with significant impact on GDP and job creation.
President Buhari, speaking during the launch at the Presidential Villa, explained that the labs are meant to ensure that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan is effectively implemented.
According to him, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan is focused on achieving sustainable, diversified and inclusive growth, becoming self-sufficient in basic commodities to curtail our food imports,
He listed other key goals to include diversifying the country’s economic base from crude oil dependence, empowering local businesses to create thousands of jobs and, improving the general wellbeing of the people.
He said ” Focus Labs have been successfully used in other countries. The Labs in Nigeria are designed as closed-door investment platforms to identify and accelerate high-impact projects with significant impact on GDP and job creation.
“The Labs will also enable pre-screened private sector investors to have access to senior government officials, regulators, and cabinet ministers.
“The goal is to efficiently and effectively resolve the most pressing bottlenecks delaying their proposed investments.
He added that he has directed the relevant Ministers and heads of government agencies to be available to the participants at the labs to respond to their inquiries and issues.
The president commended the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and other relevant agencies for piloting this process, which is being used for the first time in Nigeria.
He expressed confidence that the Labs will open up new investments to complement the government’s existing efforts in agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructural development across the country.
On his part , the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, expressed optimism that the successful execution of the Focus Labs will further drive quick delivery of some of the outcomes in the ERGP and contribute to accelerating the growth momentum of the country.
The labs which are scheduled to run for the next six weeks, will start with setting the agenda and end with the final syndication and sign offs on projects capable of impacting on the economy and creating jobs for Nigerians. The expected deliverables are the identification of projects followed by detailed implementation plans for each project with identified budgets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
“We are targeting to mobilize at least $25 billion or its equivalent in Naira, in private investments and about 240 projects have so far been screened for the labs. Many have asked whether we are not being too ambitious in targeting $25 billion.
“My answer is that we have no choice. We actually need multiplies of $25 billion or its equivalent in Naira, of new investments to create enough jobs to address the high unemployment rate in the country.
“So, we will not stop after the first set of labs, we will hold more labs and we shall keep on addressing all constraints to investments, until we achieve the goals we have set for ourselves,” he added.
Udoma, said the labs’ process has become imperative because government is fully committed to the achievement of the primary objective of the ERGP, which is restoring the health of the Nigerian economy.
“We cannot rest until we achieve the ERGP’s vision of a new Nigeria. A Nigeria that is transformed from a consuming nation to a producing nation, from an import dependent nation to an export oriented nation, from a nation that survives on one single commodity to a nation that runs on multiple engines of growth”, he said.
He added: “As the President has said, the ERGP is this Administration’s blueprint aimed at building a new Nigeria where we grow what we eat, consume what we make, and produce what we use.”
The Minister said this explains the necessity of the labs which is to take another step in ensuring the faster implementation of the ERGP. “We are gathered here for the President to launch an important implementation initiative of the ERGP, the ERGP Focus Labs. Successful execution of the Focus Labs will further drive quick delivery of some of the outcomes in the ERGP and contribute to accelerating the growth momentum of the country.”
Giving an insight into the labs, he said “we have invited potential and existing investors, both foreign and Nigerian, who may be interested in investing in any of the three areas we are focusing on, to attend the closed-door sessions.” The three sectors are: Agriculture and Transportation, Manufacturing and Processing, and Power and Gas.
“At the sessions they will have access in one location, to all the officials of government, including officials of state governments, whose support, or approvals, they might need to enable them to commit to an investment decision. In short, the focus labs will involve stakeholders from the public and private sectors working together in a single environment to think out practical and workable solutions for delivering the kind of results Nigeria needs”. He explained.
The Minister explained further that the central objective of the labs will be to bring in private capital to finance projects across the country. “Our aim is, simply put, to raise the level of productivity in Nigeria. We want more things to be grown in Nigeria. We want more things to be processed and manufactured in Nigeria. We want more jobs to be created in Nigeria. That is what the focus labs are all about.
“We will be having various economic agents (public and private) including industry leaders, subject matter experts, domestic and international funding agencies etc. interfacing in the labs to find practical solutions to the issues raised, breakdown silos, ensure alignments and secure commitment for financing and implementation.
“The Labs are workshop-style arrangements with intense open debates and an “all hands-on deck” approach, and with a number of syndications to arrive at radical, practical and innovative solutions.
“The initial labs will be conducted in three areas, namely, Agriculture and Transportation, Manufacturing and Processing, and Power and Gas. These are reflective of the execution priorities of the ERGP. The objective is to achieve new investments for critical projects and to resolve inter-agency problems that may inhibit, or slow down, private sector investments in the selected sectors.”
Pointing out that in the past ten months, his administration has achieved several noteworthy milestones , Buhari observed that economic growth returned in second quarter of 2017 due to a clear follow-through of some of the economic initiatives they set out to implement.
Since then,he said the government has consolidated on the recovery path reaching a Real GDP growth of 1.92% by the fourth quarter of 2017.
He said “We have also restored stability in foreign exchange market and have recorded improvements in our foreign reserves which have grown from 24 billion US dollars in September 2016 to 42 billion US dollars by mid-February 2018 and now 46 billion US dollars. This has been achieved partially because of the recovery of oil prices on the international market.
“We have made remarkable strides in creating a conducive business environment for investors, earning the World Bank’s ranking as one of the Top 10 most improved economies in 2017. This has encouraged both local and foreign investments in the last few months.
” We remain committed to working hard to attain our target of moving up in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings by 2020.
“We are also investing billions of naira in fixing infrastructures across the country. Significant progress has also been made in the Agricultural sector with the expansion of the Anchor Borrower’s program to more beneficiaries to boost our local production.
” We plan to build upon the success of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative to double the 500,000 metric tons of fertilizer delivered to States, agro-dealers and farmers in 2017, by achieving production output of 1 million metric tons in 2018.
” Today, our local food production, particularly rice, has witnessed a remarkable growth and has saved the nation millions of dollars of foreign exchange.
Buhari ,however, added that his administration is not relenting on their efforts until these improvements in economic indices translate to visible improvements in the lives of the citizens.
Our labour force growth rate exceeds our population growth. We must therefore continue working to attract both local and foreign investments to ensure we continue expanding economic activities thereby creating additional jobs for our people,” he added.