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NESG: Stimulating the Nigerian Economy for global competitiveness

Article submitted by Kenneth Eze

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Nigerian Economic Summit
23rd Nigerian Economic Summit

Every country that desires to keep pace with the world by being globally competitive, must constantly measure themselves against the best, to identify and strive to bridge the gaps. Nigeria cannot be an exception.

Nigeria must consider this approach, if she is to get out the economic woods to which several nations have been thrown by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With attention gradually shifting from the Covid-19 pandemic to business recovery, focus must be on the private sector, particularly the fruits that the economy can reap from public-private cooperation. Unity is strength and if there is a time that all hands must be on the deck to ensure economic prosperity, that time is now.

Kudos to the organized private sector for standing by the government in efforts to manage and mitigate the pandemic in Nigeria.

It does appear that more can be done, especially if coordinated strategy is applied to this. Applying strategy instead of contingency, would save money for the donor-businesses and government, enthrone accountability and even create employment.

This is why I must commend the dream that gave birth to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, an independent, non-sectarian organization, committed to fostering open and continuous dialogue on Nigeria’s economic development, and the passion that has kept it alive since 1993.

Intervention by the private sector should not and cannot be one-off, neither can it be disjointed, else it would be difficult to measure impact and stay focused. A proactively sustained cooperation would aid both private and public sector deliver to the masses the much desired prosperity.

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This partnership must be dialogue-led, else, it would be running into constant brick walls. It is pertinent that each business segment must be regulated and effective regulation must stem from a sound knowledge of the business being regulated.

The Nigerian experience has taught us that while government is big, it is probably too big to be swift. Every business needs good speed to keep pace in today’s economic environment, irrespective of country of operations.

This is why government should concentrate on governance, good governance, while operators can devote their time to management, translating policies into tangible results and being accountable to investors, the government and the public.

An adage has it that no dog, no matter how smart, can watch two gates at the same time. Nigeria should look to reaping from specialization.

Now that minds are contemplating life and business post-pandemic, Nigeria must brace-up to get things right. Even the most well managed economies fear that the devastating effects of the pandemic can lead to a recession. Weaker economies can brace-up for depression or something worse.

But Nigeria can gain more from its collaboration with the NESG, particularly under its annual public economic advocacy platform, The Nigerian Economic Summit, which the government and the private sector can use to review the progress made in economic reform efforts and agree on practical ways to manage issues which may have constrained effective execution.

This year’s summit is important, as the pandemic means that the way humans knew how to live has been altered for good. So, one can ask, ‘are there policies that the new normal has consigned to the dustbin? Are there policies that businesses have found unbearable or un-implementable?’

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The 2020 summit would not just present a platform for issues of regulation or policies affecting businesses to be ironed out amicably, it would be a common ground to lay solid foundations for stimulating the economy for resilience, with the building blocks of public-private sector partnerships.

Applying the tool of dialogue would be a win-win for all stakeholders, comprising government, businesses and the citizenry, even external investors. While this will help the NESG live up to its mission of promoting and championing the reform of the Nigerian economy into an open, globally competitive economy, it will also strengthen the bond holding businesses and regulators, and encourage external investment in Nigeria.

Some of the recent strides of the NESG in this direction can be readily recalled.

Part of the beauty of the annual summit of the NESG is the review of outcomes of previous summits. This ensures focus, so that participants are guided by facts of history in arriving at the best of decisions.

The NESG has facilitated international cooperation and donation to support research for the domestic economy, but the most striking partnerships that the NESG has brokered, is the partnership with the Nigerian Governors Forum and the National Universities Commission.

The NGF-NESG Economic Roundtable, a collaboration of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group birthed since October 2017.

This has as part of its objectives to promote sub-national competitiveness and provide platforms for robust engagements that build state governments’ capability to develop institutions and policies they need to drive higher levels of productivity and economic growth. Part of the things that helped Nigeria attain rapid growth after independence was regional competitiveness.

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Another laudable area where NESG can use to stimulate national economic growth and development is in its cooperation with the National Universities Commission, (NUC).

The NESG has an agreement with the National Universities Commission (NUC) for collaboration on the development of solutions to strategically drive effective development of a productive university system to guaranty quality and relevant education for national development, and a globally competitive economy.

Hopefully, this improves the employability of graduates as it aims to bridge the gap between business and the academia.

To this end, the NESG assembled a team of stakeholders to identify the gaps with a view to developing a strategy that would make the products (graduates) of higher institutions in Nigeria globally competitive.

As stakeholders prepare to assemble at the 2020 edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit, the 26th in the series, it would be great opportunity to participate and contribute to national discourse.

The NES #26 will be a gathering of national and global policy makers, business leaders, development partners and scholars to lead and participate in sessions with attention on ‘Building strategic partnerships’ and cooperation between governments, businesses and civil society for resilience.

Eze, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Ikeja, Lagos State.

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