The Edo State Government has reaffirmed its commitment to providing more support to Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) and local manufacturers to enable them play a pivotal role in the growth and development of the state and its economy. Head of Edo State Investment Promotion Office (ESIPO), Mr. Kelvin Uwaibi gave the assurance during a webinar titled “African Continental Free Trade Area: Economic Impact and Challenges for Nigeria”. Uwaibi noted that to achieve success in the implementation of the AfCFTA, boosting the capacity of the SMEs is key, adding that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement should ensure that SMEs and manufacturers benefit from the pact. He added that boosting investments in the non-oil sector was the sure way of mitigating the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, “The sub-nationals have competitive advantages which can be strengthened. We should remember that in the 1970s, we had the groundnut pyramid in Northern Nigeria; we had cocoa and oil palm in other parts of Nigeria. In Edo for example, the Palm House was actually built with revenue from oil palm. Then we need to ask ourselves, how do we graduate from theory to execution to actually making sure that SMEs and other businesses can benefit? In Edo State, we are also working with the SMEs. To ensure success of the African Continental Free Trade Area, we have to boost the capacity of the SMEs; they should lead the process.” While x-raying the efforts of the Edo State in making investments worthwhile, Uwaibi noted: “In Edo State, we are doing things quite differently. If you are talking about getting products and services to other African countries, it means we have to manufacture the products. In trying to manufacture, you need electricity.
“So, what we have done in Edo State is to partner with some investors such as the Ossiomo Independent Power Plant (IPP). Presently, we are generating 55MW of electricity power, which we have placed on the corridor of commercial hubs so that businesses can start to gain from it. That particular initiative is already yielding good results. One thing we have also done is that we have an industrial hub and industrial zone. As we speak, we have about 8 companies right now and each of this company’s investment is worth not less than $50 million. They are producing different household products. Most of the tiles you see in Onitsha Market are produced from Edo State. So, if investors could come in and do this, it shows that we have potential in making businesses located in Edo to be successful.
The Executive Secretary/ CEO Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Ms Yewande Sadiku opined that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement deliberately encourages African countries to do businesses with each other, adding that it will lead to increase in African development and competitiveness. Other speakers at the event include Victor Liman, Acting Chief Trade Negotiator and Director General Nigeria Office of Trade Negotiations (NOTN); Mr. Seye Oyeleye, DG Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) and Olusegun Olutayo, Lead Expert Trade Enablement Presidential National Action Committee on AfCFTA, among others.