Nigeria is the second Largest population in the commonwealth and if we do not have a relationship with Nigeria, then it means we are not spreading our tentacles out enough. The thing I like about Nigeria is that they have lots of good businesses and entrepreneurs and we have a lot of members, so we created an office, which is part of our program of setting up hubs in the key commonwealth countries. So we have already got them in Kuala, Singapore, Nigeria, UK, Malta and we will have one in India by next year and we are enjoying the crest wave in which we are riding on.
Beside SMEs, are you looking at strengthening domestic markets?
We are interested in training businesses within the commonwealth so we would not begin to involve ourselves in helping inter-domestic trade. We only focus on export business across more than 33 countries.
When creating these hubs, are there programmes to support young entrepreneurs?
Not necessarily but I would like to see a programme of commonwealth first which we are currently doing in the UK, something we are about to do in India and Nigeria where we will help hundreds of Nigerian SMEs export the commonwealth because the SMEs remain the heartbeat of the economy and what we need is the government to give a go-ahead and sponsors and we will organise it. But at the moment, Nigeria is preparing for its general election, which will hold next year and so we do not necessarily see that happening until after the election when we can encourage the government to take a view on it.
How did the intra-commonwealth trade volume reach a record $525 billion in 2017?
I think it is serious awareness, as you know that his Royal Highness, the Prince, was here recently. This shows that he is committed to Nigeria and considering that Nigeria is a land of opportunities and a key regional player in West Africa, that presents opportunities for people to sell their products here in Nigeria, that is why we try to facilitate trade as we are facilitators or enabler and hopefully create an environment where people want to participate will be given opportunity to participate.
What is the commonwealth doing to halt challenges faced by developing countries?
It is quite clear that most countries in that space need to have a tech eco-system and so we are working with those countries that want to establish tech-hubs. It is like the old market system whereby you aggregate a whole load of tech companies in a near space that may or may not compete with each other but the energy created just by the bunch of them in one space leads to great innovation and we recommend that every common-wealth country start a tech hub.
Have you set up any now?
I know that Rwanda is considering it and I know that Nigeria is very good on tech and that could happen. It is not a process that happens with a click of your fingers, rather it takes the government’s intervention to achieve it.
What is your advice for Nigeria to improve the its ranking on the Ease of Doing Business?
It is entirely up to the government how it runs the country, but an environment for generating entrepreneurial activity is really one way you can incorporate quickly and one can have an off-the-shelve legal process and then, you can get going. Again, those are not always easy to achieve. One of the things I achieve as a minister in the UK was speeding up that process when we had good programmes of companies starting up and the other thing was to have a tax regime that promotes entrepreneurship.