Tuesday, January 26, 2021 / 6:04PM / Bukola Akinyele- Yisau for WebTV / Header Image Credit: Twitter; @cibnigeria
The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) in collaboration with Biodun Adedipe Associates Consulting services hosted its 7th National Economic conference that explored the topic "Implications of Policies on Businesses in Nigeria in 2021" which brought together technocrats, experts, analysts, and policy advisors with Mr. Yomi Olugbenro Partner & West Africa Tax Leader, Deloitte as moderator.
In his remarks, Ambassador Ayoola Olukanni, the DG NACCIMA, speaking on the performance of the economy in 2020, acknowledged that the previous year was a tough one but towards the end of the year there was some improvement in the area of government support in terms of COVID19 funds released by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Ambassador Olukanni highlighted that the economic challenges would continue but it would open a vista of opportunities for Nigerians. He said, there was a need to look into the current economic sustainability plan, which had several components such as the N75bn MSME survival fund that could ease the challenges faced by the small and medium-sized enterprise sector.
The former Nigerian envoy to Australia urged the CIBN to encourage its members and the banking sector to consider developing mining portfolios for financing and investments.
On his part, Mr. Patrick Akinwutan the CEO Ecobank Nigeria speaking on the trends that emerged despite the crisis in 2020 and what to look out for in 2021, said the previous year was shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic which constituted a major economic challenge. He said "Global dislocation shows that we need to focus on Africa as a common market. We need to look out for opportunities in 2021 with the AfCFTA. In Nigeria, the CBN came up with key policies and an accommodative stance that ensured that businesses are supported through the challenge of the lockdowns and the economic disruption of 2020".
The Ecobank Nigeria CEO speaking further stated that Nigeria with over 200m inhabitants with an economy of over $450bn needs to become a productive and export-based economy, to create employment and power entrepreneurs so that it can take its rightful place as a global player.
According to him, 2020 was a major shift for Nigeria as access to finance became cheaper and electronic banking in the country improved recording 42% growth compared to 2019. The growth occurred because Nigerian banks, and FinTechs all invested in electronic banking which makes banking services become easier for everyone and reduces the cost of a financial transaction. This he believed will translate the economy to a productive one.
The MD/CEO of Infinity Paint Limited, Mr. Olasehinde Johnson in his contribution said a robust manufacturing sector will solve inflationary problems of the country and create employment. Johnson called on the government to give special attention to the development of the manufacturing sector in the country.
"The government must put measures in place to build capacity to make use of this opportunity and enhance production locally. In 2020, manufacturing contracted in Q1 (43%), Q2 ( -8.78%), (Q3 -1.51%) and if we must move on from there, the government needs to go the extra mile to address the unstable challenges such as forex rate, insecurity amongst others" he said.
On his part, Mr. Akeem Lawal, Divisional Chief Executive Interswitch gave a presentation on how Nigeria can use digitalization as a catalyst. According to him the growth of digital transactions in 2020 was not across the board as several sectors were affected such as travelling and entertainment, sports and associated industries saw a significant drop in economic activities at the beginning of the year. He said the agent network witnessed significant growth in 2020 and created economic activities and employment amidst the pandemic.
Mr. Akinyinka Akintunde the Chief Operating Officer, AFEX Commodities, said Nigeria's export is of high demand but low productivity and the absence of relevant infrastructure is not allowing the nation to fully utilize its resources. He noted that Agriculture is one of the highest contributing sectors to the country's GDP and also acts as one of the highest employers of labour. In terms of financing, he said less than 10% of the commercial assets of banks are dedicated to agriculture. He noted that there was a need for improved access to finance by the agricultural sector.
Ms. Afolakemi Bolanle, Chief Operations Lead, Medicines Hub Pharmaceuticals spoke on the key lessons pharma companies learned in the year. She highlighted the problems companies faced in the areas of finance, capacity constraints, and general health sector management. Noting that response affects the health sector was previously underfunded in terms of the health budget for 2020 which was 3.83% of total proposed budgetary expenditure which was far less than the 15% recommended by the United Nations.
She said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was higher financial expenditure and accommodation with a N100bn credit facility targeted at indigenous pharmaceutical companies, to improve healthcare manufacturing, research, and development. She saw it as a good development as the pharmaceutical market was estimated to be worth between $600m to about $1.2bn according to the pharmaceutical manufacturing association of Nigeria.