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Infrastructure is still a big challenge, Unilever MD

Princewill Ekwujuru
THE Managing Director of Unilever Plc, Thomas Boedinger has restated the need for improved infrastructure in  order to foster a healthy environment for industrial growth and global competitiveness in the country.

Boedinger said recently in Lagos that Nigeria’s growth prospect will be greatly enhanced if basic infrastructure is improved as it will better position the nation to effectively compete even among most industrialised nations of the world.

His words, “I am very much encouraged by what the Lagos State government has been doing despite its limited resources. I am also pleased by some of the steps taken by government to develop infrastructure like the concession of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to a private company to manage. I’m very confident that policies such as these will greatly strengthen the Nigerian economy,” Boedinger said.

Boedinger, who has remarkably improved the fortunes of Unilever Nigeria after two-and-half years of being in charge, said that in a bid to keep the business running, manufacturers have invested huge funds into the provision of basic infrastructures and that this is often passed down to the consumers who has to pay more for commodities.

He also maintained that while big multinationals like Unilever can afford to secure some of these costly infrastructural facilities, smaller companies in Nigeria cannot. “Most of us up there are actually running our factories on generators. We are in a good position to get gas pipeline which will reduce our energy cost already. For us, this was feasible because we have a big size of business. Many small manufacturers, like our suppliers, don’t have this luxury. They have to run their operations on diesel, which of course is reflected on the cost of goods supplied to us, and which ultimately reflects in the price that the Nigerian consumer has to pay,” he said.

Boedinger added that while government strives to provide infrastructure on one hand, it should ensure there is a level playing field by taking another look at its liberalisation policies. He warned that though it is a good idea to try to protect the local industry, using the liberalisation plan, there is a need to apply some caution so that the local industry don’t become complacent and lose its sense of competition.

“We look at the import of tariffs, which I fully understand is to protect the local industry. But they all will have to be competitive. As a manufacturer of leading brands in the market place, we would like to drive down the cost to make our products more accessible to the Nigerian consumer,” he said.

Boedinger, who disclosed that Nigeria is Africa’s second biggest Unilever market after South Africa, also denied insinuations that the company was planning to move its operations to Ghana, adding that 86 years ago, when it commenced operation in Nigeria Unilever made a deliberate decision to manufacture its products locally. This is in line with its belief that companies should operate in the market where they will like to be found, and where they do business.


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