The various bi-lateral chambers of commerce and industry in Nigeria, in my well- informed estimation, have striven assiduously to promote these interests within and between their countries of origin, against a backdrop of sore challenges and heart-warming prospects in a mixed bag of opportunities.
PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS
I have stated earlier, in this paper, that Commerce and its flipside, Industry, represent the whole system of an economy. I have also argued that some aspects of the whole system of economic transaction process include the legal, economic, social, political, cultural, technological and if I might add, self-serving interest.
It is my contention therefore, that the challenges confronting a viable organized bi-lateral business relations industry in Nigeria and the prospects of surmounting them are arguably woven around the listed aspects of the system of business transaction processes in the partner country, namely:
LEGAL: The legal environment for the establishment and operations of bi-lateral business relationships should be made friendlier. It should provide adequate room for new, emerging scenarios and attitudes to foster more enduring and productive partnerships. Consular matters between partner countries should be more accommodating in approach and treatment.
ECONOMIC: The economic environment in which bi-lateral chambers of commerce and industry operate in Nigeria is mostly hostile and uncaring. Government fiscal leeway, let alone political support is non-existent. And where they apply, they are painfully selective. It is widely
acknowledged that the western economies, the middle east and indeed the erstwhile Asian Tigers are awash with development, interest-free and/or soft long moratorium funds (especially venture capital/angel funds) which Nigeria can explore for business start-ups/refinancing credits, etc, through Nigerian organized bi-lateral chambers of business and friendly relations to enrich our capacity for fast-tracking economic growth and development.
The organized bi-lateral chambers of business hold tremendous promise as excellent platforms for productive match-making for productive and profitable business; more realistic and focused promotion of sustainable trade and investment congresses in each other’s country, as well as, holistic support for skill acquisition and indeed all the coherent interests, listed elsewhere, which the chambers pursue.
POLITICAL: It is widely understood that bi-lateral chambers of commerce and industry constitute a critical wing of a country’s national external relations and that the political attitude of a host country is a good measure of the strength of its external relations.
Against this backdrop therefore, one is tempted to argue that the Nigerian government (through their various MDAs) generally scant regard for and encouragement of and involvement with the activities of these chambers is a sad commentary on official perception of the realities of geo-political survival and the power dynamics of the global environment.
SOCIAL & CULTURAL: The drive, inherent in government public policy infrastructure, to reposition the Nigerian social and cultural emblem as a winning elixir of pride and patriotic conquest is hardly on the progressive road.
The often-neglected role of organized bi-lateral chambers of not just commerce and industry but indeed, friendly international relations, represents a strategic deficit in public policy accounts.
It is also worthy of note that the prospects of building a desirable rebound in the fortunes of our economy through bi-lateral chambers of commerce and industry is potent and can be explored through the same components of the whole system of general economic transaction process.
EXTERNAL PUBLIC RELATIONS: In these days of very competitive external environment, discerning countries and their governments must put their right foot forward if they reckon to make better than good progress in securing the most productive global market networks.
The best sales pitch available to countries is their foreign/economic diplomatic relations effort. A well-cultivated Nigerian organized bi-lateral chamber of business relations has the inherent power to better position the Nigerian economic sales pitch to the external publics and hence secure excellent returns to the domestic entrepreneurial investment.
PERSONALIZED/SELF-SERVING MANAGEMENT: Some of the key factors which may impede the creative involvement of government in the
operations of bi-lateral chambers of commerce and industry and hence position them to add distinctive value to government efforts at
diversification of the economy would include the following:
I. A lack of a well-constituted and mobile Board for most Chambers.
II. Ineffective, ill-equipped, unmotivated and lame-duck management/human personnel resources.
III. Inadvertent concentration of executive powers on a member of the Board (especially the CEO).
IV. Solo efforts of an executive board member, often marked by a severe lack of consultations with other members of Board and management.
V. Diversion of opportunities for national socio-economic development to selfish gain and use.
The issues raised here were noticed from my years of interaction with a couple of key bi-lateral Chambers of economic activity operating in Nigeria presently. Government should, as a matter of national economic survival, look into those issues with a view to repositioning these agents of economic self-reliance and foreign investment inflows.
I have laboured in this discourse, to explore the issues raked up in the subject. It is abundantly clear that the founding and operations of bi-lateral chambers of commerce and industry should constitute a major plank in the calculus of empowering the Nigerian economy to attain its full potentials for a more realistic, people-led growth and development. The challenges are surmountable; the prospects are enormous.
Finally, all we need now is the right and mutually reinforcing mix of policy strategies (it is not necessary to re-invent the wheel though). A creatively retooled industrial policy capable of weathering economic headwinds of any character and severity would do it.
And of course, the constructive and purposeful collaboration between the socio-economic/political authorities and the group of organized bi-lateral chambers of commerce and industry in Nigeria, against the backdrop of productive, uncompromising and well-focused management of public assets and national resources will push the economy to the next desirable level.
We will continue this expose next week as we continue to update you on knowledge resources you can use.
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