WELCOME ADDRESS BY PRINCE ADETOKUNBO KAYODE, CON, SAN, PRESIDENT OF ABUJA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 2020 ABUJA INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIR
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the official opening ceremony of the 2020 Abuja International Trade Fair (#2020AITF), the 15th edition.
Today provides another opportunity for all of us to meet to promote trade, share ideas about our economy, make contacts and network for commercially and mutually beneficial relationships.
I am today more than ever assured by the quality of participation and subscription to the 2020 AITF, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that struck the world earlier in the year which shook world economies badly, including ours.
This year’s participation, gives us the confidence that we are on the sustained path of building that much needed network that will place us on the pedestal of collectively contributing our critical input towards the tasks of putting our people to work, generating employment opportunities and creating wealth for them even as countries are still struggling to recover from the global pandemic of COVID-19.
Over the years the Chamber has been reforming its organisation of Trade Fairs, as applicable in other parts of the world to satisfy our customers. The chamber is introducing modern practices in line with International best practices and conforming with COVID-19 protocols. We want to assure you that businesses that patronise our fairs will have value for money so that the fairs can be further expanded in subsequent years.
Despite the attendant challenges the country faced with the Coronavirus pandemic, the country also faced another challenge of ENDSARS protests, which forced us to reschedule the Trade Fair earlier planned for October 24th to November 2nd to this date.
We are well aware of the impact of ENDSARS campaign, which affected so many businesses in Abuja and across the country. According to our findings by the Policy Advocacy Center (PAC) of the Chamber, Abuja lost roughly N900m to the protests. The trajectory of these intermittent issues which is highly regrettable shows that we have people in our streets who are jobless, who with any slight chance will light fire.
While we recognise that the ENDSARS had nothing to do with the mayhem that ensued, we must also acknowledge that there are two categories of young people in Nigeria. There are people who are engaged and those who are not engaged and those who are not engaged are more than those who are engaged and they are uncontrollable if given the chance. So we must get them some skills, provide them jobs to get them off the streets, and most importantly strengthen the social safety net so they don’t fall through the cracks.
Over the weekend, the Country slipped into a second recession in 5 years. The decline in GDP for the third quarter of 2020 is not unconnected with low activities both at the domestic and international levels which hugely affected the economic growth during the quarter as a result of several lockdown measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world. But we are certain Nigeria will come out of it like we did in 2016. But we must learn from it, and put the lessons learned into action.
The Country must as a matter of urgency develop local industries with at least 104 Industrial Parks (IPs). The importance of Industrial Parks cannot be overemphasised because it is paramount for the growth of small and middle –sized enterprises which drives the economy of this country.
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are the best mechanism with which we can address infrastructural challenges and firm up growth in our quest to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
To boost production which will in turn lead to improved economic growth, Nigeria can expand the number of Industrial Parks it currently has. We recommend that every state in the country should develop at least five (5) Industrial Parks, while the South West, Eastern and Middle belt states should target a minimum of at least (ten) 10 each.
These parks should be a place where raw materials can be processed from its raw form to its finished products, including the roughages should be processed into something useful. Nothing must be wasted.
The Northern part of the country should concentrate on cereal crops including maize, millet, and rice among others. Cotton, livestock, and mining while the petrochemicals in the South-South. Nigeria must equally target increasing its cocoa production to be processed into all cocoa by products for export by 10000% by 2023.
In spite of all our daunting challenges, the whole world today, especially the developed world understands that they must trade with Nigeria. They must work with Nigeria and they must partner with Nigeria.
Nigeria has remained a country of great potentials and many major industrial countries of the world are taking genuine concern in our activities and into the internal developmental strides of our dear country.
All we need to do is to decide to trade with the world and partner with the world. We must make easy to partner with Nigeria. We must make it easy to come to Nigeria. Our traditional hospitality is acknowledged all over the world. So, we must encourage both old and new partners come to Nigeria and stay in Nigeria and do business in Nigeria.
In the past few years, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been repositioned to play critical roles within the Organised Private Sector (OPS) to influence, shape and develop policies that affects the economy, to promote and industry in order to foster diversification of the economy; to support and enhance skills development; bridge skills gap, and help resolve the issue of skills mis-match and re-skilling; to lay a solid foundation for a National Commercial Disputes Resolution mechanism, to ensure expeditious resolution of commercial disputes.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen let me brief you about the developmental strides we have garnered as a chamber.
Let me start by emphasising that we were established in 1986 and have since generated so much goodwill. It is the same goodwill and affection that we have deployed in adding our critical quota to the overall economic development of the country.
Within this period, we have established a business association that have functional linkages with business groups, trade associations, international chambers, government agencies, trade offices and foreign embassies, bi-lateral chambers among several others. We are doing all these to accomplish this goal of enhancing the sustainable growth and development of our members and businesses in and around the FCT.
In order to achieve these onerous tasks, we have set clear targets, guidelines and milestones with clear benchmarks which have seen to the setting four functional centres in the chamber that are doing specialised functions and serving the business community better. The centres are: Abuja Trade Centre (ATC), Business Entrepreneurship Skills and Technology (BEST) centre, Policy Advocacy Centre (PAC) and the Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC).
ATC is rigorously carrying out several activities to facilitate and expand businesses owned by our members. BEST is the training arm of our chamber and it is doing this across all the skills needed to run businesses and survive in the 21stcentury either as a student, businessman and public or civil servant. PAC is our policy advisory hub while DRC is handling commercial disputes using arbitration instead of litigation method.
The task of taking the chamber to the next level and placing it on the pedestal that it would become a model in the West African sub-region is achieved. We therefore invite you, our friends not to hesitate to take advantage of the specialised functions of our Centres.
Our membership is about 1500 strong and we are encouraging them to work in sectoral clusters as is now vogue all over the world. We are supporting our members, being SMEs to formalise their businesses and enable them to grow, because Nigeria is an SME country with 99% of our enterprises in that segment of business.
In the coming years our clients will see more reforms from us, in terms of application of technology and online B2Bs, B2Cs, B2Gs, G2Gs and muvh more.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, this year’s theme: Trade and Commerce Beyond Borders is of strategic importance to our members in particular and the rest of the business community in the country. Today’s official Opening Ceremony provides an opportunity for a good mix of key government functionaries, stakeholders, major players in the areas of Commerce, Industry, Trades and Investment. So it would be of immense benefit for us to re-echo this singular appeal that the public and Private Sector operators, must work as collaborators not competitors, as partners not combatants, these are the only sure ways to guarantee and achieve the ambition of developing our country’s economy. That is the only way we can build a lasting legacy of value and ensure shared prosperity for the next generation.
Before ending this welcome speech I want to put on record our appreciation of the FCT Administration and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment for the regular support to our Chamber. I also present my personal appreciation of all members of the Chamber, friends in the diplomatic community, associates and all the distinguished guests present here today. You are all welcome to 2020 Abuja International Trade Fair. Please make time to visit and encourage your friends and associates to visit also. There is something here for everybody.
Thank you and I wish you a splendid 2020 Trade Fair and God’s Blessings.
Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, CON., SAN
President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Monday, 26th November, 2020