The last week’s launch of the Nigerian Economic Diplomacy Initiative (NEDI), as an initiative described as coming with monumental importance to the nation’s foreign policy and economy, has started raising reactions from business moguls and diplomatic experts.
The Vice President, Porf Yemi Osinbajo, who spoke at the launch of NEDI in Abuja, said it is a convergence of Nigeria’s global reach and influence with tremendous opportunities for commerce and industry.
The event, which took place at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, was anchored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
Osinbajo described the initiative as a game-changing synergy that ought to have happened years ago. He further said the initiative was designed to complement the fundamental economic objective of the Federal Government, which is to improve the well-being of Nigerians as individuals and collectively.
Osinbajo averred that “Economic diplomacy, as most of us know, is the use of diplomatic methods to address national economic interest and, of course, it has a key role to play in our case in achieving the objectives in our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP)”.
“So, it is imperative that given the size of the Nigerian economy, we are well positioned to actively participate in international economic affairs in a manner that is collaborative and mutually-beneficial to us and, of course, to our international partners,” the Vice President added.
However, some Nigerians who spoke to our correspondent said as far as issues in growing Nigerian business diplomacy is concerned, the best option is not to keep launching platforms, but to see how ease of doing business can be at competitive advantage when compared with other emerging economies in Africa.
According to Dr. Ken Igboanugo, “Launching NEDI to me is a mere diversionary exercise which the economy doesn’t really need now. What we need is how to deepen the ease of doing business in the country and not just to pretend as if ease of doing business is okay”.
He decried why the government is not doing much again on fast-tracking ease of doing business index which Nigeria is not doing well for now due to issues of official bureaucracies in MDAs.
The development economist averred that “The federal government seems to have reduced its speed in driving ease of doing business campaign as majority of all the challenges businesses face in the country which several ministries claimed that are being worked on are yet to be made simple”.
“We were told that ease of doing business is growing at ports, but only recently, NAFDAC is back at the ports, thus growing the volume of government agencies at the ports which cause longer documentations, checks and examination of cargoes which will lead to delays and demurrage after all,” he said.
Explaining more, a retired diplomat who pleaded anonymity said the launch of the NEDI is not necessary if adequate reinforcement is made to the federal government’s drive to ease frustrations business operators face in running their businesses in Nigeria.
During the launch at the Presidential Banquet Hall, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the initiative was a way of keying into one of the three areas of challenges identified by President Muhammadu Buhari at the inception of his administration.
He said “Your Excellency, when President Muhammadu Buhari and yourself took over the leadership of this country in 2015, you identified three main challenges to be addressed, namely: security, governance (corruption) and the economy (job creation)”.
Several other Nigerians, who spoke to our correspondents on the NEDI launch, said the federal government or the Ministry of External Affairs did not carry people along in the launch; hence they are not aware of the meaning or what the platform stands for.