The Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) says it is working assiduously to resolve critical challenges facing the Free Trade Zones (FTZs) scheme to spur investments and economic growth in the country.
The Managing Director of NEPZA, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, said this on Friday at the Nigeria and West Africa GDP Global Webinar 2 on “FDI, State Economic Prospects and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Promotion”.
Adesugba, who spoke on “Nigeria’s Special Economic Zones: Prospects and Challenges”, listed some critical challenges facing FTZs scheme which could hinder investments in Nigeria and the growth of her Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said that one of the most critical challenges was the lack of understanding of the concept of the FTZs by relevant government agencies and other stakeholders.
He said that other challenges included adequate funding and infrastructure, obsolete laws and inconsistency in government policies, urging critical stakeholders in the sector to synergise and work on laws that would improve the operations of FTZs.
Adesugba underscored the need for good infrastructure like power, road, water and adequate services for Nigeria to have FTZs with international standards.
He recalled that the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) was designed to increase the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the GDP from four per cent to over 10 per cent in next five years.
According to him, it is projected that the increase in GDP will translate to about N5 trillion annually.
He said that in April 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari also launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), a roadmap aggregating sectoral plans to boost agriculture, transportation, industrialisation and social investments.
He said that under the ERGP, the SEZs model was adopted to accelerate the implementation of NIRP, a four-year roadmap on industrialisation to create jobs and promote exports so as to facilitate economic growth.
Adesugba noted that even though these projections were made, the COVID-19 pandemic had affected global economic projections and Nigeria was not left out.
He, however, said that the development of SEZs in Nigeria still remained a presidential priority and a major strategy to get Nigeria out of the economic downturn.
He said that the government identified the SEZs scheme as a key policy instrument for the realisation of its industrialisation agenda, following the President’s visit to China in 2016.
“It is very important for us to note that if we are trying to replicate what China did, we must ensure that all the parameters are duly met, especially those on infrastructural development and regulatory framework,” he added.
Adesugba said that NEPZA, in support of the agenda of the Buhari-administration, recently revised its strategic plan to include an increase in the number of functional and optimal SEZs as one of its key goals.
He said that there were several strategies targeted at achieving these goals, including the creation of SEZs border, establishing technical zones and enabling environment in areas like medical tourism, mining, technology and agriculture.
He stressed that FTZs in Lekki in Lagos, Ilorin, Funtua in Kastina and Gombe would be developed into modern zones, with hope of setting up SEZs for functional medical tourism in Lekki, in collaboration with World Bank and the Lagos State Government.
He said NEPZA Act of 1992 mandated NEPZA to provide a favourable investments climate with competitive incentives regime, streamlined administrative procedures and infrastructural development.
“NEPZA currently operates various types of FTZs, which include the export processing zones, free trade zones, border free zones, science and industrial technology parks and logistics zones.
“We have about 42 licensed free trade zones and currently, we have 22 operational zones, 400 free zones enterprises in different sectors and we have managed to attract over 16 billion dollars, while local investments have been put at N270 billion.
“We have generated over 15,000 direct and 30,000 indirect jobs, generated government revenues of N30 billion, carried out pilot projects like construction of Dangote Refinery at Lekki FTZ, the largest refinery in the country which is due for completion by the first quarter of 2021,” he said.
“We are in the process of upgrading, retraining the managers of the zones. The current NEPZA management has a renewed focus to resolve these challenges to improve efficiency in trade zone operations,” he noted.
Earlier in a remark, Charles Ughele, Chief Representative and Advisor, West Africa, GDP Global Development, stressed the need to focus on how to get Nigeria out of COVID-19-induced economic challenges through pragmatic solutions.
GDP Global Development is a leading and specialised economic promotion and business development consultancy firm, which provides pragmatic solutions to problems in economic policies, encourage international best practices and trade facilitation.