By Peter Egwuatu
The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Budget and Planning has disclosed that through the Economic Recovery Growth Plan, ERGP initiated about one and half year ago, about $4.7 billion investment has been identified in agriculture and transport focus labs with a potential to create about 129, 000 jobs.
Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning whose ministry coordinates implementation of ERGP, while analyzing the progress so far recorded after the organization of focus labs meetings for investors in Abuja held in March this year said: “Our aim is, simply put, to raise the level of productivity in Nigeria. We want more things to be grown in Nigeria. We want more things to be made in Nigeria. We want more opportunities created for Nigerians to be able to work. That is what the focus labs are all about.”
In the statement from the ministry made available to Vanguard, Udoma said: “About $4.73 billion worth of investment has been identified in the agriculture and transport focus labs with a potential to create about 129, 000 jobs; $9.25 billion investment with potential of 378, 000 jobs was identified in the manufacturing and processing labs, while $8.57 billion worth of investment will come from power and gas, with potential of crating up to 7, 000 jobs.”
Udoma further said the cumulative investment value of the projects that were identified at the focus labs were projected to rise up to about $39.12 billion, with potential for 716, 079 jobs by 2025.
Feature of the focus lab
A remarkable feature of the focus labs and a novelty in encouragement of private sector participation in the nation’s economic recovery process was the rating of projects in the manner hotels are rated – from zero-star to five-star. A zero-star rating meant that a project needed to be worked on, even if it had potential, while increase in rating showed projects that were at different stages of progress or readiness. Udoma said a four or five-star project was good to go, and only needed finishing touches to enable it to take off. This could be in form of financial backing or regulatory approval.
“Investors with projects that were lowly rated had the opportunity of one-on-one meetings with experts, with more opportunities for follow-up meetings with bureaucrats in the relevant ministries, for the purpose of getting the projects fine-tuned in terms of design and packaging, to make them attractive to potential foreign partners. The aim is to ensure that every project attains a five-star status.
The testimonies of participants at the focus labs showed that there was general satisfaction with their outcome” he noted.
Bureaucratic maneuverings reached in a matter of weeks
Udoma narrated that the presence of key government ministries and regulatory agencies at the event meant that decisions that would normally take longer periods of slow and sometimes tedious bureaucratic maneuverings were reached in a matter of weeks.
According g to him, “For instance, investors that had difficulty in assessing credit were taken through the different funding opportunities available through the Central Bank of Nigeria. Officials from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) were on hand to explain to investors the various tax incentives the agency offers. This was important because of the difficulty the government faces in making payment of tax a culture among Nigerians – both individuals and corporates – which has been a major setback for revenue generation in the country.
Some of the immediate benefits participants derived from the focus labs include the fact that there were those who obtained approvals to facilitate the take off of their projects with ease – something that might not have been achieved over many months of trips to Abuja.”
Udoma named a company called Our Collective as being able to obtain Letter of Intent (LOI) from the Ministry of Transportation to be able to access funding to the tune of $500 million.
He said participation in the focus labs enabled another company, Kabara Mining, to have its application for renewal of license, which had been pending over a long period, finalized by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development. Another company, Poliguard Investment, received LOI from SMDF in favour of the export agency of the United Kingdom.
Spring Fountain is an aviation company that is involved with Boeing Corporation of the United States in four projects that would not only lift Nigeria’s status in the international aviation industry but also help in achieving the objectives of ERGP.
The first project is aimed at working with the American aircraft manufacturer to make Nigeria the aircraft leasing hub in Africa. The second project is to create maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility to be located within Nigeria’s airspace. The aim is to transform how aircraft are repaired and how Nigeria and Africa can interface within the aircraft repair value chain.
Location of the facility in Nigeria would not only allow for aircraft repairs and
“Having identified focus labs as the key drivers of ERGP, participants in the maiden edition have called on the government to take the event round the country in the same manner it is doing with the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) clinics.