By BENJAMIN OMOIKE
President Muhammadu Buhari and Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Friday reiterated that federal and state governments will continue to provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the country.
They made the statement at the Opening Ceremony of the 36th edition of the Lagos International Trade Fair, with the theme: “Connecting Businesses, Creating Value” held at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.
President Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, said the Federal Government will continue to ensure that the atmosphere is right for businesses, especially manufacturing and export to thrive.
He said Nigeria’s signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), would be a great opportunity for Nigeria as the country’s international trade recorded a trade surplus of N3.2trillion between January and June this year.
Adebayo, who noted that the international trade records could be better with the collaboration of both the public and private sectors, described the Lagos International Trade Fair as a great opportunity to showcase Nigeria’s capacity to produce to international standards.
“The private sector can help boost the demand for Nigerian products by aggressively pursuing value addition greatly to the quality of goods originating from our country,” he said.
In his address, Governor Sanwo-Olu, who was the Guest of Honour at the ceremony, restated his administration’s commitment to prioritising the growth and development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to further drive the economic growth and development of the state.
He said his administration will continue to partner with the Organised Private Sector to boost the economy of Lagos State, adding that his government would further create policies that would deliberately engender ease of doing business to enable the state to attract investments and allow businesses to thrive.
Governor Sanwo-Olu outlined how his administration had been boosting MSMEs with soft loans from Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC), among others, urged business owners in Lagos to take advantage of the opportunities to grow their business and further boost the economy.
The Governor, who described MSMEs as the heartbeat of any economy, said their development was critical, particularly in the face of the current harsh global uncertainties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine- Russian war.
He said: “On our part, we have continued to make giant strides by formulating and implementing policies, programmes and projects that have impacted and stimulated economic growth in the State. In our quest to building a globally competitive economy, especially through the MSMEs, we have improved considerably our Economic Policy Coordination and Implementation. We have encouraged Partnership Building between the Public and Private Sectors and we have prioritised labour to facilitate and promote investment in the development of a quality workforce for the various categories of enterprises in the State.
“We have also been working to lower the Cost of Doing Business, Improve Ease of Doing Business, Build Skills, support Innovation and Strengthen the function of the Labour Market to improve capabilities, reduce conflict and foster harmonious industrial relations. Without a doubt, my administration has been proactive and intentional in its support and interventions to improve and reinvigorate MSMEs.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu stressed further that “It is also instructive to note that we successfully steered the State and the economy through the turbulent period of the COVID-19 pandemic. We led with confidence, provided direction and offered support to businesses that faced severe challenges. Permit me to state that through the various economic policies we have implemented, Lagos State has continued to attract direct foreign investments, while our sustainable infrastructure projects continue to serve as support to industrial, commercial and other economic activities to foster shared prosperity among residents.
“Let me further assure you that we shall not rest on our oars until business prosperity is guaranteed. This is because our administration is not oblivious to the fact that for us to achieve our dream of becoming Africa’s model megacity by 2025, we must continue to improve our business climate so as to attract more private sector investments, create jobs and increase productivity.”
Governor Sanwo-Olu also commended the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), organisers of the fair for being an unrelenting partner, especially through its policy advocacy that has been yielding positive results not only Lagos State but also Nigeria as a whole.
He urged the Chamber to continue to initiate and develop more opportunities for supporting businesses, especially the young entrepreneurs, who have great potential of re-writing Lagos State’s business story and revitalise Nigeria’s economic fortunes.
In an opening address, the President of LCCI, Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole said the Lagos International Trade Fair is one of the ways the Chamber has been boosting commerce and trade despite huge challenges.
Olawale-Cole, who commended the Lagos State Government for its continued support to grow small businesses, said the business community is looking forward to the outcome of the national trade policy currently being reviewed.