The 26th edition of the Nigerian Economic Summit organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) is unique because this is the first session since inception (the first session convened by Chief Ernest Shonekan, GCFR in February 1993) that will combine features of physical and virtual participation of hundreds of economic stakeholders across the country.
Aside from being a vestige of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our social existence, the mixed experience is a testimony to the endless possibilities of the technology-enabled world. There were more delegates attending the sessions using the NES virtual app than those in physical attendance.
Like the summits before it, the 26th #NES featured conversations around the economy, policy, partnerships and next actions that will result in real, sustainable and inclusive double-digit economic growth for Nigeria.
In this summary, I intend to share with you key takeaways from the plenary sessions from the first day of the session. So, here we go:
The Chairman’s Passionate Appeal
In his welcome statement, Mr Asue Ighodalo, Chairman, NESG emphasized that a business-as-usual summit will simply not do as 2020 is a unique year. Moreso, it was announced a few days back that Nigeria had slipped into recession, the second in 5 years.
“The circumstances of the times i.e. the pandemic and its far-reaching health and economic consequences; the restiveness of our huge youth population; a population growth rate that exceeds our rate of economic growth and development; the high rates of unemployment and underemployment and the resultant high levels of poverty in our economy dictate that this must be a Summit with a difference,” he explained.
Mr Ighodalo called for an audacious and visionary leadership for Nigeria to get out of the woods. Alluding to the Chinese spirits, he made a passionate call for Nigerian leaders and people to aspire for and work towards a greater tomorrow.
“We cannot make this pandemic, or indeed any other hurdles we will encounter, an acceptable explanation for failing to forge forward… We must give those 200 million Nigerians something to hope, live and work for: We must provide Nigerians with a future to believe in, and we must be in a hurry to make that hope and future a reality – one that can be felt, touched and experienced by everyone, everywhere,” he appealed.
His speech set a powerful tone for the conversations that will follow in the next 2 days. He succinctly captured the implication of the #ENDSARS unrest as a call to go beyond rhetorics and act now.
Chidi Ajaere’s Insights on business and leadership
Chidi Ajaere, the Chief Executive Officer of the GIG Group was a panellist on the first plenary session titled Nigeria’s Turning Point. He was joined by Dr Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State, and Funke Opeke, founder and CEO of MainOne. The panel was anchored by Adesuwa Onyenokwe, founder, Today’s Woman Magazine.
The panel shared insights on different approaches to sustained economic growth and development that will be anchored on a robust partnership between our youth, subnational governments, and the private sector.
Chidi started by saying that “no nation can thrive without a serious economic plan.” He noted that there are 3 parts to real development- ideation (planning & conversations), execution (implementation of ideas) and sustaining the idea. Nigeria, he said, thrives in first and fails woefully in the last two.
He shared some insights on business leadership and governance at the session. One of the famous quotes at the session was “A business can only be as great as the government allows it to be”.
On Collaboration and Policy Making
Speaking about implementation, Governor Kayode Fayemi expressed the willingness of leaders to take decisions that will foster economic growth. He gave an example of the partnership between the Governor’s Forum and the Ministry of Communications that resulted in the slashing of the Right of Way Charges across states.
The highlight of Governor Fayemi’s contribution was his admission of the need for the Governor’s forum that he leads to engage actual business leaders and ensure that policy decision are made to alleviate their pains. Right on the panel discussion, he agreed to have a joint session with the NESG in February 2021 and to meet with Chidi and other business leaders before then.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal emphasized the need for collaboration between the industry stakeholders, the Federal Government, State Governments and the legislative arms across the board to achieve a restructuring of the country for growth.
He noted that there must be an enabling Governance system that will support effective collaboration between these players, increasingly promote business growth and enable seamless public-private collaboration.
On her part, Mrs Opeke called for a focus on the long term impact. She noted that this can be best achieved by investing in infrastructure development.
Day 1 features other prominent sessions. Governor Obaseki joined other experts to lead conversations on “The Economic Impact of COVID-19” and what must be done to get Nigeria to where it ought to be.
The organisers of the event ensured that all key aspects of the country’s challenges and prospects were placed on the burner. There were sessions on Food security, women empowerment, political participation, business strategy and human development.
The availability of a virtual app allowed for hundreds of business executives to join sessions, interact and network seamlessly from their remote locations.
I truly share the hope of the chairman that the “recommendations from the summit and similar economic interventions should be carefully considered by our Federal and State governments as critical inputs into policies that must be crafted and tailored towards implementing national prescriptions that will result in real, sustainable and inclusive double digit economic growth over the next two decades.”
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