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Economic diversification in focus as Okonjo-Iweala visits CBN

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CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

Mr Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), says there was the urgent need to diversify Nigeria’s economy to make it sustainable and reduce unemployment.

Emefiele said this on Tuesday in Abuja, while receiving Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General (DG) of the World Trade Centre (WTO).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Okonjo-Iweala was on a week-long working visit to Nigeria, her first engagement since assuming office on March 1.

Emefiele called for the support of the WTO to enable Nigeria move away from its present, oil based economy to non-oil exports.

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He said that the Federal Government was committed to moving the nation’s economy away from sole dependence on crude oil, adding that the support of the WTO was needed to achieve this.

“We need to think of how we can open up Nigeria. The current administration is serious about moving Nigeria away from an oil dependent economy to a non-oil economy.

“We have no choice than to make that economic transition because by 2025 many countries would have moved away from fossil fuel. At a point we will not be able to generate revenue from oil,’’ he said.

Emefiele expressed government’s commitment to creating opportunities for Nigerian youths to excel in their fields of endeavour.

He said that the creative industry was one area that the government was providing incentives that could encourage the youths to prosper.

Emefiele also said that the recent approval given by the Federal Government to the Bankers’ committee, to resuscitate the National Arts Theatre was in the interest of the youths.

“We want to see how our youths can earn improved revenue from their arts. How our musicians can earn revenue from people playing their music in different parts of the world.

“We at the CBN, have set up the Creative Industry Financing Initiative, where N100million has been disbursed already.

“The President also gave approval to the Bankers’ Committee to revamp the National Arts Theatre. We will have a music hub, a movie hub, fashion hub and an Information Technology Centre.

“These are some of the things government is doing to make Nigerian youths know that they mean a lot to us and that they can use their creative potentials to the advantage of Nigeria,’’ he said.

The CBN governor reiterated that government had provided various support and intervention to Nigerians at the emergence of COVID-19.

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He said that the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), a Public-Private initiative he jointly chaired with Mr Aliko Dangote, was able to raise about N40billion which was used to provide palliatives for Nigerians.

“This is the highest of such funds raised to supports efforts of government to combat the pandemic.

“We built isolation centres all over the country and provided stimulus in form of palliatives that were distributed to the needy across the country.

“ We also provided intervention funds through the banks to support pharmaceutical firms that wanted to expand their factories. We are improving our ease of doing business,’’ he said.

Earlier, Okonjo-Iweala had called on the Nigerian authorities to fast track the process of economic diversification and capacity building across sectors.

The WTO DG said that COVID-19 had particularly shown that Nigeria needed to develop capacity in the pharmaceutical sector so as to be self-dependent in medicines and vaccines.

She called on government to commence capacity building in vaccine production without further delay, as it would take decades to be able to produce such vaccines.

“We are happy that we were able to get the first doses of vaccines, with another 12million doses to follow.

“The pandemic has now opened our eyes to see that we need to start doing something about the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria. Africa itself imports more than 90 per cent the pharmaceuticals it uses.

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“What are we doing to encourage local manufacturers of pharmaceuticals? We must learn the lesson now because there will be another pandemic in future,’’ she warned.

She challenged the government to take steps to improve trade logistics so as to improve foreign interest in the country.

“Nigeria ranks 103 out of 167 in trade logistics index. It is not very good but this is an opportunity for us to improve.

“If our logistics are not sound; if we do not have the kind of transport system; the kind of energy system we need, we will not be able to move,’’’ she said.

She said that the Nigerian economy was already diverse, adding that the country only needed to add value to its various economic potentials.

Okojo-Iweala pledged her support and that of the WTO to Nigeria’s effort at creating enabling environment for trade and investment to thrive.

“We need to begin to talk about transition of the economy from oil based to non-oil. We have two to three decades to make this transition but we must start now,’’ she advised.

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