There are several similar economic challenges confronting the African countries today. Fortunately most of them are generic and subject to minor tinkering. Therefore, similar suggestions could be proffered towards their resolution and maybe even metamorphose these challenges to opportunities.
Principal amongst these are development and funding structure for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), industrial development, capacity development, intra African trade and mechanics for commercial disputes resolution as well as the ubiquitous problems of corruption. There is also this new and critical issue of development of an African-China Policy.
On Wednesday, (24th October 2018), leaders of Pan African Chambers of Commerce met in Nairobi and articulated these issues amongst other business in an agenda setting communiqué, the Nairobi Declaration, at end of the summit.
We all hope to begin the process of articulating and harmonizing our position when we participate at the Intra African Trade Fair, (AITF) scheduled to hold in Cairo in December, 2018. We appreciate our brother, Dr Uramah, CEO of AFREXIM Bank for the initiative.
When I took privilege of the distinguished attendees at the Nairobi Summit to inform Chamber leaders of this August visit, I was mandated to share our joint concerns with you as well as pass on the support of the African Organised Private Sector (OPS) for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA), and the commitment (especially in Nigeria to ensure that all our countries sign and ratify. And that the OPS assures of its support for every policy and implementation strategy to develop and harness African trade for Africans.
I was also requested to hint you that a formal request to a courtesy visit will soon land on your table.
While I must place on record the efforts of our Government in Nigeria to tackle various challenges inclusive of the ones itemized and recognized above, I must however utilize this occasion to reemphasize and underscore the need for concerted efforts the African Union and other international Commissions and bodies to assist to resolve the underdevelopment of SMEs. For instance our economic backbone is sustained by SMEs which constitutes about 78% of our agricultural, industrial and commercial activities.
In Nigeria, substantial intervention funds are being provided but two critical challenges remain. One is the inadequacy of the available funding. Second, is the funding structure. Continued application of standard commercial bank template has not worked. It cannot work. We suggest that the AU, support the new thinking and develop policy that allow finance leasing, direct equipment funding, mandatory gross interest rate of less than 10% and entrepreneurship training support in addition to direct involvement of the OPS in this matrix.
In my Chamber we have set up a skills development Centre called the Business Entrepreneurship Skills and Technology (BEST) Centre. This is our own contribution to and support for government efforts in this regard. We want to see the African OPS supported by AU to develop BEST Centres all over Africa. This was endorsed in the Nairobi Declaration on that day.
We also endorsed the establishment of Commercial Disputes Resolution Centres by the various African chambers of commerce. There are two immediate advantages. One, we shall have clear established mechanisms across the continent which will support and enhance the efficient implementation of the AFCTA. Two, we domesticate commercial disputes resolution which at present is principally out sourced to London, Paris and New York, even Singapore and Hong Kong.
We also seek the support of the AU with respect to the efforts to combat corruption. While in Nigeria, a lot of effort is being put to tackle this, we require support at continental level to enable African countries develop structural reforms for the public service, strengthening of our ability to repatriate stolen funds, punish foreign receivers of stolen fund, support the effort to reduce over and under invoicing by foreign multinationals and others as well as international tax fraud and manipulation.
Finally we are all taking Chinese loans for infrastructure development. The repayment for these loans will soon be here. We are also involved in the national currency-Yuan swap deals. African countries are dealing with China on one on one basis. It is our considered view that the time has arrived to develop a clear and concise Africa-China Policy. I need not say more on this now.
While wishing you a successful tour, we hope with your assured support, the OPS in Nigeria and indeed in Africa will be able to realize the commitment to contribute maximally to the economic development of Nigeria and Africa.
I thank you for your attention and please be assured of our best wishes.
Prince Adetokunbo Kayode SAN,. CON