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By Favour Nnabugwu
Minister of Trade & Investment, Olusegun Aganga
DETERMINED to make the country the hub of investment in Africa, Federal Government has established trade investment councils in six countries across the globe.

The six countries are Australia, Canada, China, UK, India and the USA. This is part of renewed efforts of the government  to make Nigeria the preferred investment destination and a manufacturing hub for sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Olusegun Aganga, Minister of Trade and Investment, made this known in Rivers State at the weekend. He said that the new initiative would act as a vehicle to channel big, transformative investments into the country and strengthen its position in the global market place.

He said,' To enhance the level and quality of foreign direct investment, we have created trade and investment desks in Nigeria's main embassies across the globe. We have also agreed with the relevant authorities to make it possible for genuine investors to get multiple entry visas in their home countries or visas at the point of entry'.

'Our strategy is to make Nigeria the hub of investments in Africa. And to be able to fast-track this process, we have started with the inauguration of the Australia-Nigeria Trade and Investment Council in Australia during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia last month.

Transformative investments
'The Ministry of Trade and Investment is looking at replicating this for six other advanced economies. This vehicle will channel big, transformative investments into Nigeria and strengthen our balance of payment position.' Aganga who was in China recently was elated by the responses from that country.  He stated, 'The Chinese companies are excited about the investment opportunities in Nigeria'.

' We have also been able to secure firm commitments from the Chinese government to make Nigeria a preferred manufacturing hub for Africa.'

According to him, 'The Federal Government has identified the holes to be plugged in the quest for an investor-friendly environment. Tin the light of this, the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Aganga recalled has commenced an investment climate reform programme, working with the Department for International Development and the World Bank to create an investment ecosystem that will match that of the top economies globally.

'To pave the way for easy implementation, the reforms have been broken into Business Environment Reform, Review of Trade; Industrial and Investment laws, policies and incentives; Creation of a competitiveness council to drive and coordinate the efforts of the public and private sectors aimed at improving our competitiveness, among others.

He stated, 'The long-term targets of the investment climate reform program are: to increase Nigeria's creditworthiness by 10 places in the next 10 years; increase Investment level by 300 per cent by 2015 (increase of $8.9 billion); reduce the level of poverty in Nigeria through the creation of more jobs and to increase global competitiveness ranking by 75 points in 2015.

He stated that the reforms were also targeted at value re-orientation and elimination of perception of corruption by the year 2015″.  In addition to   the investment climate reform programme, Aganga said that the ministry had also commenced the review of major industrial policies which focus on areas where Nigeria had comparative and competitive advantage. He said,'With regard to the country's resource advantage, the policies will focus on the oil and gas, petrochemicals, solid minerals and the agricultural sectors of the economy, among others.

'Already, the cement industry reform is yielding good fruits for the economy. As a result of the enforcement of the backward integration policy in the cement sector, Nigeria has moved from a heavy importer of Cement into a country that will become a net exporter of Cement by 2012. We are working with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to replicate this for rice and sugar.

In order to key into the Federal Government's new investment initiatives, Aganga however noted that there was the need for the Rivers State Government to develop a business and investment-friendly environment by reducing the number of procedures for starting a business, making the registration of businesses faster and putting structures in place to enforce contract, respect its terms and give genuine investors easy access to land.