Nigeria to partner with special economic zones in Africa

Jennifer Inah

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Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the country’s commitment  to partner with Special Economic Zones in Africa to benefit from the African continental free trade agreements.
President Buhari said this at the ongoing Africa Economic Zones Organisation’s 7th annual meeting in Abuja Nigeria’s capital.
The Nigerian president who was represented by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Umana Umana noted that the conference would enhance intra African trade and promote peer reviews among the operators.
“I urge you to critically examine the factors hindering the  growth of free zones in Africa and come up with appropriate measures to address any identified challenges, Africa must rise to the occasion and compete favourably with any special economic zones in the world”.
President Buhari stated that the  government came up with policies to support private sector involvement in infrastructure projects.
“Such projects include the newly commissioned sea port, and a refinery expected to become the largest single trade facility of its kind in the world upon completion.”
“Additionally, a free zone enterprise currently transitions the country from being a next importer to a next exporter of fertiliser other significant  projects attracted by the scheme including a mega oil and gas downstream manufacturing with dedicated seaport terminals.” He explained.
The Minister of Industry Trade and Investment Mr Adeniyi Adebayo while speaking, said to attract foreign direct investment, the country must provide a truly enabling environment.
“Government agencies must not be seen as barriers, they must be seen as facilitators and ideally as partners in progress.
“Improving cooperation among government agencies has really helped to engender operational delivery.”
“Some examples of this cooperation is a tripartite memorandum of understanding between the Federal Internal Revenue Service, this helps balance revenue mobilisation drives within society outcomes of personal service.”
He added, if the government implements more measures like this, the business environment changes as the country becomes a more investor friendly destination.
Also the Managing Director Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, Prof Adesoji Adesugba appreciated the Africa Economic Zones Organisation for giving NEPZA the opportunity to host this years annual meeting.
“The Free Trade Zone Scheme has created 150,000 direct jobs and an estimated 250,000 indirect jobs for our citizens.” 
“We hope to enlarge the employment opportunities when Dangote Refinery and  Deep Sea Ports becomes functional in a few months time.” He said.

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