Lifting millions of Nigeria’s economically downtrodden into financial independence requires the creation of the most business-friendly and inclusive environment to drive growth across sectors. Nigeria’s business landscape is propped up by the private sector, 90% of which comprises Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) who provide about 84% of jobs and contribute close to half of GDP to the economy.
Yet, for too long the MSMEs have been left to fend for themselves – from poor infrastructure, to availability of qualified labour, and worst still, harsh regulatory environment and corruption. All of these have hindered their optimal contribution to the economy.
The success stories of economies we look up to – American, German, Japanese, and others – are a reflection of how their respective regulatory environments have enabled businesses to thrive and make optimal contributions needed to drive economic growth. When the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) was created in 2016, it was as a direct response to the need for reforming Nigeria’s business environment in a bid to make the Nigerian economy competitive, and finally guarantee the diversification of the economy.
The mandate of the PEBEC has always been straightforward – to remove critical bottlenecks and constraints to doing business in the country and make Nigeria a progressively easier place to do business and thrive – especially for homegrown businesses.
One of the key indicators of PEBEC’s success upon establishment was Nigeria’s performance on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business indicators, which provide a global snapshot of a country’s business environment in comparison to its peers. We held 170th place in 2015 and over the past three years, Nigeria has moved up in the World Bank Doing Business ranking by 24 places as of 2018 and we look forward to our continuing reforms moving us to sub-100 by 2020.
PEBEC collaborates with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other partners to activate friendly and supportive business environment across 10 major pillars of reform namely: starting a business, entry and exit of people, trading across borders, accessing credit, dealing with construction permits, registering property, paying taxes, getting electricity, enforcing contracts, and protecting minority investors. The impact of these reforms can be found at the Business Made Easy (BME).
Thus far, we have achieved simplified 24-hour business name reservation and registration process; automatic generation of Tax Identification Number (TIN) and online payment of taxes; payment of customs duties online; simplified Visa on Arrival process; reduction in the number of import/export documents required for trading across borders; creation of the National Collateral Registry to support the use of movable assets as collateral for loans; introduction of credit scores to aid individuals in securing loans for purchases; improvement of interactions between the public and MDAs through the PEBEC App; smoothening the process of getting building permits in Lagos and Kano; as well as the establishment of Small Claims Court in Lagos and Kano cheaper and faster enforcement of contracts involving claims up to N5,000,000.
Recognising that private sector feedback is vital to measuring transparency and efficiency in public service delivery, the EBES developed REPORTGOV.NG, an interface that affords citizens the opportunity to lodge complaints and provide feedback on services rendered by MDAs. Over the past 18 months, REPORTGOV.NG gas successfully resolved over 1,500 complaints across 18 participating MDAs, recording 88% resolution rate for all complaints.
These have all translated to improved economic performance for the country and more appreciation of homegrown products and services for Nigerians. We have seen fiscal and monetary policies lead to inflation’s steady decline. While there’s a clear need to attract more listings into the capital market, the Nigerian Stock Exchange Equities market volume traded for 2018 increased by +5.92%.
We are witnessing more innovation-driven initiatives across the country as a direct response to easing business practices. With the Fourth Industrial revolution, driven by digital technology, Nigeria has a great opportunity to adopt the technologies like the internet of things, blockchain, analytics, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
With the promotion of enterprise across board, Nigeria is well on the road to reducing unemployment from 13.9 percent as of Q3 2016 to 11.23 per cent by 2020.
We are moving closer but we need to make more concerted efforts to help us achieve the desired economic goals. We have identified the areas where there is an urgent need for increased engagement across board to ensure the sustainable delivery of business climate reforms for Nigeria over the next 15 quarters.
We intend to focus on specific levers that reflect consumption or investments especially in the agriculture, manufacturing, construction and service sectors but providing mechanisms to optimise their access to power, transportation networks (roads, ports and rails), and broadband, on the one hand, and continuing to invest in social investment and human capital development for them, driving anti-corruption measures, and legislative and judicial reforms that make business easy.
In the coming weeks, we will be engaging the MSMEs, regulatory bodies, MDAs, and other key government stakeholders by listening to them and mapping out pain points with a view to offering reforms that will cater to specific needs of businesses at subnational level. The roadmap that comes out of this exercise will include clear outputs and quarterly outcome targets critical to deepening and leveraging the impact of the reforms done so far at national level in the country.
Ayokunnu Ojeniyi is the Project Manager at the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat and also serves as Technical Assistant - Industry, Trade and Investment in the Office of the Vice President.