The acting managing-director Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Mr Bitrus Dawuk, has said the COVID-19 pandemic has presented opportunities in the area of international trade and production as most manufacturers around the world were looking to diversify the supply chains.
He said it presented both challenges and opportunities for free zones world-wide.
According to him, “the current era had also challenged the manufacturing value addition of free zone enterprise and disrupted the global supply chain”.
According to a press release issued in Abuja on Monday by head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA, Martins Odeh, the Acting Managing Director said this in his presentation titled “Seeking New Frontier for Repositioning NEPZA for Maximum Investor Attraction and Retention in the Post Covid-19 Era” via Webinar online conference organized by a Dubai-based free zone training and management consulting company, CTP International FZLLE for selected industry experts across the world on Thursday.
He said that he was, however, not surprised by Buhari’s support for NEPZA and the entire operations of free zone in the country, adding that the federal government’s former subtle reservation toward the sector changed when the president made a state visit to China to have an on the spot assessment of Chinese free zone model.
He stated that the Authority had enjoyed some considerable increase of budgetary allocation since the president discovered the need to support the sector to perform optimally, stressing that the president’s exposure to the Chinese free zone scheme had positively robbed off on NEPZA and the country free zone as a whole.
According to him, NEPZA is prepared to cash in on the prevailing business environment by developing robust actionable plans to reposition the country’s free zone for maximum investor attraction and retention in post covid-19 and Brexit era.
“NEPZA has identified two major opportunities presented by covid-19: the first is inward production, involving a change in sectorial focus in favour of agro-allied and healthcare, while the second is in the global and regional value and supply chain, involving manufacturing and supply of capital goods to other African countries,’’ Dawuk said.
The NEPZA boss also mentioned some barriers negating efforts in attracting and retaining investors to include periodic interference of other government agencies in free zone operations, overtly stringent or impromptu government policies (fiscal and monetary) and an outdated legal framework (over twenty years old).
He expressed optimism that the sector would be stabilized to become the country’s economic powerhouse soon, adding that government was genuinely working toward using the sector to trigger the economy after months of docility caused by covid-19 pandemic.