The minister of Industry calls for more focus on agriculture and SMEs

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The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga, has called for more focus on Agriculture and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to achieve inclusive growth in Africa.

He said, on Tuesday, that Small and Medium Scale businesses today accounted for 45 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and it was necessary that they should be encouraged to do more.

“There are some sectors we need to focus on, we are already focusing on them but we need to do more.

“The first is agriculture; a lot of our people are employed today in subsistent farming across the globe. There is value addition, which is about industrialisation and we need to add value to it.

“SMEs today account for 45 per cent of that new GDP you are talking about, so we have to make sure that we remove barriers to the development of that sector.

“We also have to focus on housing because housing has a multiplier effect on other areas.

“We are already focusing on them but we need to intensify our efforts, that is how jobs will be created, that is how you will have inclusive growth,’’ he said.

Aganga said most farmers in the country were subsistent farmers and to make agriculture more sustainable and inclusive in Nigeria, we should commercialise the sector.

According to him, apart from ensuring that farmer’s have access to the right seeds, training and are better organised into cooperatives; it is important that we have a commodities exchange.

“We are working on doing a mini launch of the new commodities exchange in June on a number of products; I think there are four or five products to start with.

“But our bigger plan is to privatise Nigeria Commodities Exchange because the private sector will do it better than the government.

“Once that is in place, farmers will have bigger audience to sell to, harvest losses will reduce and it will help to their cash flow,’’ Aganga said.

On the issue of the proposed Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU countries, the minister said there was going to be a paper presentation to all Heads of States in June.

The minister told that the Heads of States would give further directives on the issue after the presentation.

“But at the moment, all countries are advised to do their own economic analysis to look at the impact of signing or not signing agreements on their economies,’’ he said.

EPAs are legally binding bilateral contracts between the European Union and individual African counties which open the signing country’s market to European goods and services.