VP’s Remarks At The Franco – Nigerian Chamber Of Commerce & Industry Virtual Forum
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE FRANCO-NIGERIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY VIRTUAL FORUM ON TUESDAY, 24TH OF NOVEMBER, 2020.
It’s a real pleasure to join you all at this webinar of the Franco – Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I think some exciting things are about to happen between France and Nigeria. This will be as Ambassador Pasquier said, my second interaction within two weeks or so with the French business interests in Nigeria.
I had earlier met with the Africa Commission of the Mouvement des Entreprises de France, MEDEF International. My french is actually improving every day now with all these interactions, to discuss French investments in Nigeria and I’m pleased to continue these engagements with you all today.
As countries around the world struggle to rebuild our economies, it is very evident that we cannot do this without collaboration and meaningful collaboration is really quite critical here. Collaboration between countries and between sectors has become more important than ever and as one of France’s leading partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, we are committed to keeping that relationship going.
Organisations such as yours, the Franco Nigeria Chamber of Commerce in my own opinion, is a clear demonstration of this collaboration and of the seriousness with which both Nigeria and France and the business interests in both countries take the relationship.
I think that this is particularly exciting because it is also coming at the time when we are trying to struggle with all sorts of hard decisions that have to be made. Also, we are looking forward to the fruition of so many different plans, so many different projects and programmes that we have.
For us a key priority remains the provision of jobs for our large number of very young people, 70% of the Nigerian population, in effect, providing jobs for the Nigerian population and we have been determined to work on ways to continue to create real opportunities for young Nigerians, bridging existing skill gaps, equipping them with resources that they need to contribute positively to our national development.
We are really eager to work with member organizations of this chamber of commerce as we implement future programmes, future job programmes, future economic programmes. Alongside partner forums such as this, we work closely with wholly indigenous private companies because we recognize that the private sector is the real engine of growth.
We do quite a bit of work and we engage at different forums with many companies including many French companies and some have attended some of our events, and those that we’ve organized with the private sector. But our vision is a significant improvement in the Nigerian business environment, just to increase our cross-border trading and productivity across the economic sectors.
We’re working hard to establish a business environment that we hope will be supportive of both domestic and foreign investors, despite the economic slowdown, and of course, we are all aware of what the GDP figures are this quarter, but I think it is important to recognize that the pandemic, which really is the cause of the sharp downtown, not just in the Nigerian economy, but practically all of our economies all over the world, except perhaps China.
It also provides incredible opportunities for doing all manner of very innovative and very creative things. I think that we are in a season where we are ready to experiment and where we are ready to do a lot more. If you look at our Economic Sustainability Plan, which was our response to the pandemic, what we tried to do was a few things that we thought would be game-changing.
There are quite a few things, so I’m not going to bore you with all the details of our ESP, which I’m sure you’re already familiar with. One of the important things that we tried to do was with respect to renewable energy is our solar power interventions. We are collaborating with several solar power companies to provide within the next 12 months, 5million Nigerian households with solar home systems. This is partly to address the issues with the National Grid by providing more Off-Grid capacity, but also to provide real opportunities in the renewable energy space and I think that this might be of interest to the French business people.
What we’re doing is getting financing through the Central Bank as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan. I’m sure you are aware that we’ll have a N2.3trillion plan. The funding is about N2.3trillion, but a substantial part of that funding is coming in the form of loans to the private sector, especially those that are involved in the assembling of solar power equipment, installation of solar power equipment and even retailing solar power equipment.
The whole idea is to resource them so that they can provide these services to the 5 million initial targets, 5 million homes. Then we hope that we will create several opportunities around it. Even the payment systems that will have to be worked out around the solar home systems will provide some opportunities in installation, servicing and maintenance. This is a very important part of the work that we are trying to do.
We have the collaboration of the World Bank on this as well and we think that this is a project that will redefine in many ways, the power sector, especially provision of power in homes, domestic provision of power.
We think that it might be something that would really make a huge difference and we are really open to other ideas or suggestions that are possible. I’m sure that today we will have conversations also around what is going on in the hydro-carbon industry where we have Total doing some really excellent work there.
We are also quite happy to announce, and I’m sure that Ambassador Jérôme Pasquier will be happy about AirFrance flying again and all of its developments. I think all of that is good news and we are all happy that AirFrance is able to go back and forth from Nigeria again.
Thank you very much for this opportunity and I look forward to the discussions that will follow and to say how greatly encouraged we are about the interest that the Franco-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce continues to generate in the Nigerian economy and Nigerian business. We hope that this union and collaboration will be stronger and stronger.
Thank you again and I look forward to the conversations