THE BIG ENABLER

Nigeria 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gbenga Kuye, Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), on the mandate of the authority and its new task to promote industrialization.

Gbenga Kuye
BIOGRAPHY
Gbenga Kuye is the Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA). He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos and began his career with Citigroup, where he rose to the position of Vice-President for Operations and Technology and Deputy Managing Director in Cameroon. He also had a stint with the United Bank of Africa, where he was the General Manager and COO before becoming an Executive Director at Ecobank Nigeria and then the Group Head, Group Shared Services for Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI).

What is the role of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), and how does it function within the current context of the Nigerian economy?

Once the government realized that there was no single agency responsible for national industrialization, it was decided that NEPZA would hold this additional mandate. Several things must happen to ensure this. First, the enabling act that set up NEPZA needs to be reviewed. That process has begun by order of the National Assembly. One key aspect that we noticed was that many of the jobs were done by too many people, whereby there was no ownership of the process, which curbed the taking of responsibility. Therefore, we restructured and pruned down the departments. We created the compliance and enforcement department to be fully responsible for the end-to-end compliance and enforcement of various policies, aligned to the incentives we have given. Then, we separated the free zones into public and private entities. The idea is that you have one director responsible in each area who sees things end-to-end from the beginning with marketing to bringing those people on board, registering them, providing incentives, and ensuring that they are complying with incentives and paying all relevant dues and fees. They are also responsible for training. Furthermore, NEPZA will be renamed the Nigeria Industrialization and Free Zone Agency (NIDZA) once all approvals have been made. There are two key policies that will drive industrialization. One is the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan, and the second is the National Enterprises and Development Program (NEDEP). Those two government policies are anchored in the President's transformation agenda. Supplementary to these programs are the Sugar Policy and the Automotive Policy. Our mandate has been expanded, and we no longer solely focus on free zones, but also on industrial cities and industrial parks. This means the whole appraisal process of the old free zone has to be amended, more checklists have to be put in, and it has to be more robust. Prior to this time, the President had stopped approving free zones since he was not seeing their benefit. For the first nine months, I had to do a complete appraisal of why the free zones were not working. Within a few months of coming on board with the new checklist and the new structure, we had received three approvals from the President. It has lead to the birth of the first industrial city approval, and concerned the Gas Revolution Industrial Park in Ogidigben.

You identified certain key sectors that are particularly promising for future development. What is their importance, and what will be the role of NEPZA in these sectors?

The US is our largest buyer. Soon, it will not need our oil because of shale gas fracturing, and the discovery of crude in Ghana. Ghana will offer a discount, or else offer buyers delayed payment terms. Therefore, Nigeria has started looking at different sectors of the economy where we have comparative and competitive advantages. Agriculture is an area we need to focus on. We also need to look at the oil and gas sector in a constructive manner, as we should not be exporting crude. We are exporting it to countries that have their own refineries that create jobs for their own people. We need to do it all end-to-end, and take the byproducts of the crude. A NEPZA-operated zone will have industry, skills workshops, and SMEs, and will become the hub that everyone has to connect to. I want my zones to rank among the top-50 zones in the world. I want a line confirming that 15% percent of manufacturing is coming from these zones.

What will be your strategies and priorities? What will you do to achieve this? What kind of projects and incentives do you plan for?

We have restructured and plugged the loopholes, looked at the free zone, and seen what is working and what is not. Of the 25 free zones, 10 are functional, nine are under construction, and six are dormant. The six that are dormant are state run. I told my staff from those states that it was a shame that their state did not make proper use of its free zone license. As a result, the governments of the dormant zones are currently talking to me regarding investments. Years ago, industrial parks and industrial cities were created in this country, but they died with the government. They still exist and some manufacturing is happening. We did research around the country on the viability of these industrial parks. In partnership with the government, we are identifying the old industrial parks and cities to see if we can jump start them. We are trying to realize a highly innovative new vision. This involves the concept of the Nigeria International Financial Center, based on the Dubai International Finance Centre, which will be located within our free zones. The objective is to motivate Nigerians to transfer their funds back to Nigeria to set up industries, because currently 80% to 90% of total Nigerian funds are located beyond the country. The New Financial Policy will increase development and industrialization.

Where do you see Nigeria in the next five years and how will it be achieved?

I am a Nigerian, and I love the country that has done so much for me; I need to give something important back. The President has four years to showcase advancement. One quick way to jump start the economy is to use the free zones, industrial parks, and industrial cities. Since I have that responsibility, I see myself as the President's number one ally in this. I will assist in his success. For me to succeed, I have to come up with a clear strategy and make sure it is executed. The problem with Nigeria has never been strategy. We have the best strategies in the world, but they do not get executed, which is a situation I am trying to reverse. What I am doing is not new, and the only thing difference is that for the first time somebody from the private sector and who understands generating revenue is running the agency as a business that needs to make profit while running effectively.