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Toyota, Twitter snub raises questions on Buhari’s ease of doing business mantra

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PERSISTENT snub by industry giants comprising Toyota, Twitter, Google AI, and Suzuki on Africa’s largest economy has called to question President Muhammadu Buhari’s six-year ease of doing business mantra.

Nigeria has been snubbed by these aforementioned global giants to neighbouring Ghana and other African countries. This development has been described by most industry analysts as bad omen for Nigeria despite the Federal Government’s drive for ease of doing business.

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been spearheading the Presidential Enabling Business Environment, council (PEBEC) alongside the implementing Ministry- the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment – with a view to addressing setbacks facing small and medium enterprises while doing business in Nigeria.

The Buhari-led government has made ease of doing business one of its focal points since 2015.

Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey, while announcing the company’s choice, said the micro-blogging platform chose Ghana because the country was a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the open internet, which the platform was also an advocate for.

He further cited that Ghana’s recent appointment as host of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) aligned with Twitter’s overarching goal to establish a presence in the African region.

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True to Twitter’s conviction, the Federal Government of Nigeria banned its operations in the country two months after.

Some analysts believe that other African countries with better democratic tenets and rule of law have become safe havens for upbeat investors amid rising conflicting signals issued by the Nigerian government on poor adherence to the rule of law and obeying court orders.

The Nigerian government is pushing social media and obnoxious media laws that are targeted at restricting the freedom of information space.

Industry analysts say the government must go beyond observing   World Bank’s template for enhancing businesses and ensure that day- to-day needs of the small-scale businesses in the country are addressed.

“It is not about getting better ranking from the World Bank, but attending to day to day needs of the small-scale industrialists and businesses. How many interventions have we had in the MSME sub-sector?

“Why are they not working? Why do we have more people being pushed into poverty year on year? Why are our interventions knee-jerk and not addressing the real issue?”An associate Consultant on Small and Medium Scale Business to the British Department for the International Development,(DFID)Celestine Okeke told THE ICIR.

“What is our general national development plan for the MSME sub-sector. Having this kind of plan would feed into other plans and intervention programmes so that it would have the needed impact.”

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He stressed that most Nigerian officials used populist, private sector rhetoric to justify new MSMEs assistance programmes, adding that, “they are a drain on public finance because corruption and mismanagement negate their intended impact.”

Nigeria in 2017 appreciated 24 places in World Bank’s ranking on the ease of doing business to 145th position, owing to several reforms. However, analysts believe that Nigeria is far away from institutionalising  democratic principles and enabling rule of law, thereby hurting investor confidence in the economy

“No investor takes his investment to an unstable economy and an unsecured country. Nigeria has not proven to have those potential and opportunities for now. The option left for all investors who want to come to Africa is to go to South Africa, North Africa, East Africa or West Africa . In Africa, Nigeria doesn’t look like an option,”former Director-General of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chijioke Ekechukwu told THE ICIR.

Nigeria needs to deal with insurgency and general insecurity to be able to attract such investments like that of Toyota, he stressed.

In a statement, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Toki Mabogunje said the insecurity crisis in Nigeria projected the economy as an unsafe
investment destination, and if unaddressed, would thwart government’s efforts aimed at encouraging private investment inflows into the economy at a time the economy was in dire need of massive investments to bolster growth recovery, create jobs and alleviate poverty.

“We note that investors’ confidence had been weak before the COVID-19-19 outbreak, and many investors still see the Nigerian market as a risky venture despite the oil price recovery, vaccination dissemination and growth recovery. We believe confidence will remain weak in the short-term if the situation
does not abate,” she said.

“There is a need to ensure a concrete and sustainable means of reducing youth unemployment rate through youth employment schemes and programmes. There is a strong correlation between unemployment and criminality,” Mabogunje further said.

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