Stakeholders in and outside Nigeria would be elated to read the latest Doing Business Report of the World Bank which sees Nigeria, “the Crippled Giant”, leaping to 145th among 190 economies on the ease of doing business. Nigeria gained 24 places on the latest ranking, an improvement on the prior year’s ranking of 169, and exceeded the short term target of 20-place movement. According to the Report, Nigeria, alongside El Salvador, India, Malawi, Brunei Darussalam, Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Zambia and Djibouti are the top 10 most improved countries on the ease of doing business index.
Based on the 2018 Report, Nigeria improved in seven indicators with the greatest stride made on enforcing credit which went 43 places up to 96. Access to credit is perhaps the area that has been less-publicized but with profound impact on micro, small and medial scale enterprises (MSMEs). With a 38-place upward movement, Nigeria is now adjudged the 6th best country in the world in terms of access to credit and the 2nd best in Sub-Saharan Africa, only behind Zambia. The impact of the two pieces of legislation on movable collateral registry and credit bureau offer MSMEs tremendous opportunity to access credit. Nigeria is also ranked the 3rd best country in Africa and 33rd globally in terms of protecting minority investors.
Making Nigeria a globally competitive business destination is one of the key objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan developed by the current administration. Whilst the narratives of economic recession, foreign exchange brouhaha, high borrowing cost, aggressive tax drive and other pain-points for businesses operating in the country might have overshadowed the efforts of government in the past two years, there is a concerted effort at demonstrating intention, backed by action, to create a business-friendly environment in the country.
One of the major steps taken by the President in demonstrating commitment towards the creation of a competitive business environment was to set up the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in July 2016. PEBEC is inter-governmental and inter-ministerial and chaired by the Vice President. The mandate of PEBEC is to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to do business. PEBEC has the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), which assists Ministries, Departments and Agencies of governments (MDAs) to implement its reform agenda.
Regulatory framework aimed at institutionalizing the reforms include an executive order (EO1) signed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN, on 18 May 2017, in his capacity as the then Acting President. EO1 covered transparency in MDAs, default approval, one government initiative among others. Two bills, the “Secured Transaction in Moveable Asset Bill 2017” and “Credit Reporting Bill 2017”, were passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the Acting President on 30 May 2017.
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