Chigozie Chukwudi Okafor: Policies of government still not business friendly
The chairman, Dynatech Group of Companies, Chigozie Chukwudi Okafor, in a chat with DEBO OLADIMEJI spoke about trade barriers in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and how government can confront the challenges.
How can government address issues surrounding obstacles to trade in the West African sub-region?
Government’s lack of interest in the development of infrastructure is a major obstacle to trade in the sub-region. Government should focus more on research and development of infrastructure/trade/industries to enable businesses get to the level, where the countries in the sub-region can be compared to countries like China, Taiwan, South Korea and others that control world economy. I suggest Nigerian government to partner other developed countries to develop infrastructure and remove obstacles to trade in the sub-region. Government should work with experienced Nigerian businessmen, some of who are working in big economies like the United States, the United Kingdom, UAE and others to achieve this. These professionals and businessmen know how to tackle these challenges, their contributions will also boost the region’s economy.
What are the main challenges that negate trade in the sub-region?
Infrastructural challenges are not limited to bad road networks, inadequate inter customs relationship among neighbouring countries, but also include the ease to deliver goods and services, dearth of facilities at the seaports, poor communication network with customs, high interest rate on bank loans, among others.These challenges have restrained many Nigerian businessmen/women from establishing outlets and sales points in other African countries. They have made things difficult for businesses.
Are there other remedies to these challenges?
Yes, West African Presidents and Heads of Government, especially the Nigerian President, should call for a business summit with manufacturers and businessmen to evaluate and re-valuate some of the existing business policies in the sub-region with a view of boosting the economies of member countries.
We hear products are also counterfeited. How can this be stopped?
Only good products are counterfeited. It is the policy of every company to fight the counterfeiting of their products. My company has come up with diverse ways to do this, which include collaborating with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to raid markets of counterfeits. I believe many companies are doing their best to fight this menace.
Is there a way counterfeiting could be totally eliminated in the sub-region?
Yes, there are ways to do this and one of them is the use of embossment and bar codes on products. It can also be controlled by sensitising end users; let them know the marks to look out for in any of the product they want to buy. Some of these marks include SON’s and NAFDAC’s registration numbers.
We have different trademarks, whose details we change from time to time. We have SON numbers and from time to time we educate our end users and distributors on how to identify the numbers and distinguish our original products from counterfeited ones.
As a group, with three active companies in one umbrella, Dynatech Group of companies, we directly employ about 150 workers aside many others that depend on our products to earn a living across the country. We have operational offices in the six geographical regions of the country, which means we are helping to reduce unemployment in the country and contributing to government’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). Government alone cannot employ everyone, so, it needs a viable private sector to do this.
We source and produce most of our products locally, doing this means investing in the local economy. Government should partner private sector to create more jobs and boost economy.
One of the ways government can encourage businesses is to waive some taxes for manufacturers, especially as they provide their own energy. Government should facilitate ease of doing business to enable companies get foreign currency to bring in some essential raw materials. They should also open up other seaports in the country like Calabar and Port Harcourt ports to decongest Lagos seaport and reduce the number of days we wait to clear our goods.
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