By Itohan Abara-Laserian and Tinuade Adeshyan
Some stakeholders on Tuesday said that attracting foreign investors was key to tackling the high rate of unemployment and economic challenges in the country.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that stakeholders spoke at the ongoing Food and Beverage West Africa Exhibition at Landmark Events Centre, in Lagos.
A former Ogun Commissioner for Commerce, Mr Bimbo Ashiru, told newsmen on the sidelines of the exhibition that government had no business doing business but to ensure ease of doing business.
Ashiru said that exhibitions were to create awareness and attract foreigners to come and invest in the Nigerian economy thereby creating employment.
“This exhibition clearly shows that we can integrate as a family globally. This is a country of about 200 million people and with the kind of exhibition we are seeing today with people from all over the world.
“If these over 100 exhibitions penetrate the Nigerian market, it will create thousands of jobs. One of the exhibitors has also said that their target is to employ 100,000 Nigerians.
“Just imagine these companies establishing in different locations in Nigeria. One thing I always say is, if you bring people into the country, what is key is the value chain benefits and to employ our people.
“The level of unemployment is high and the only way to do reduce this trend is to get foreign investors to come in and produce locally, they will get our local raw materials which will create jobs for our farmers, our unemployed graduates.
“At the same time, our graduates who want to start their businesses can consider farming,’’ he said.
Ashiru also noted that there was need to develop agricultural value chain that would lead to industrialisation.
According to him, Nigeria needs to start producing and growing what we consume like it is obtainable in other climes where they have farm access roads for easy transportation of raw materials to manufacturers.
“What we owe these exhibitors is to create an enabling environment.
“We are talking about ease of doing business, we have moved from 170 to 146 position and our target is to move to maybe 80 or 70 and we can do that if we create the environment,” he said.
Jamie Hill, Managing Director of the B to B Events, organisers of the exhibition said that the exhibition was to create partnership opportunities for Nigerian businesses.
Hill said that there was a growing demand for foreign manufacturers to penetrate the Nigerian market, known as the market hub of Africa.
“We created this platform to meet demand because everything is based on supply and demand, this exhibition will not be held if the international market did not request for such.
“It is an avenue for them to see the Nigerian economy and possibly work towards establishing their companies here in Africa’s largest economy.
“It is a simple decision to hold this exhibition here, the people are good, the facilities are good, and the business is great.
“I have been in Nigeria since 2012 but this is my first time organising this event. We are pleased to say we are hosting exhibitors from across the world and hoping for partnerships for Nigeria and international business.
“We want to support Nigerian businesses and help them grow and we want to attract international businesses to come here and invest in the Nigerian economy,’’ he said.
According to Hill, the long term goal is to partner local manufacturers because foreign investors will not just come from overseas to set up a manufacturing plant without doing a market study or finding a market partner to market their brand.
NAN reports that the Food and Beverage West Africa Exhibition is the first in its series that will showcase the latest international innovations, thousands of local and foreign products in the food and beverage industry.
NAN also reports that local exhibitors totalled over 40 per cent, while the over 50 per cent are foreign manufacturers. The event which opened today had about 1,000 visitors from across the country.