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Enhancing competitiveness of businesses through export development 

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The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) recently organised a national conference bringing together key stakeholders to evolve recommendations for a policy framework that will boost 

agricultural production, processing and export for increased businesses in the country. ADEOLA TUKURU reports.

NEPC is the federal government’s institution for promotion, development and diversification of exports .

The conference which was themed:”Export for Survival: Optimizing Nigeria’s Non-Oil Export Potentials” was carefully couched to reflect NEPC’s approach in repositioning non -oil export for increased foreign exchange earnings.

Export trade accelerate economic growth 

Export trade is generally considered as a veritable instrument for sustainable economic growth. It normally facilitates improved foreign exchange earnings, strengthens the balance of payments, encourages the development of export-oriented industries in the manufacturing sector, increases the profitability of firms, creates jobs and increases government revenue through taxes, levies, and tariffs. All of which will cumulatively accelerate economic growth.

At the conference  in a paper presentation on “Emerging Issues Disrupting Nigeria’s Non- Oil Export and Innovative Solutions” by the Director General Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) Segun Ajayi-Kadir, mni explained that historically, the economy of Nigeria was buoyant during the pre- and post-independence years because of huge earnings from non-oil export like cocoa, cotton, groundnut, palm oil etc. 

He said the economy was so strong that it financed an appreciable number of capital projects without borrowing and the export market of the country was reasonably developed.

Neglect of other sectors

According to him, the discovery of crude oil brought a shift that made the country to majorly depend on the Oil sector to the neglect of other sectors. This made the economy susceptible to fluctuations in revenue, occasioned by the usual instability associated with the prices of crude oil in the international market.

This chart shows the all-time low price of oil in the middle of the pandemic,this was due to supply being more than demand since the world was on lockdown by the way, this is a also a foretaste of what may become of oil adding that it is a wake-up call to the need to take non-oil export more seriously.

Also, in another paper presentation on 

Sustainable Market Access for Nigerian Non-oil Export, by

Nigeria’s Ambassador to WTO,

Amb. (Dr) M. A. Abdulhamid highlighted

negative impact on Nigeria’s external reserve and exerted unprecedented pressure on Naira, exceptional reversals in capital flows, weakened Nigeria’s ability to finance its import, undermine its Balance of Payment position, Increased poverty and livelihood security difficulties, Unemployment.

He said in order to build a resilient economy, Economic Diversification and digitization especially export diversification is key.

Boosting non-oil export

He said  Nigeria needs to focus on ways of ensuring the growth and  development of various components that make up the non-oil sectors with a view to boost non-oil export.

In the same vein, the NEPC Executive Director, Dr Ezra Yakusak explained that the conference could not have come at a better time than now considering the plethora of challenges bedevilling the non-oil export sector which among others include the adverse effect of COVID 19 pandemic on export operations, the distress calls of practitioners on regulatory constraints and restrictions on export business, and the dire need to strengthen the diversification agenda of the Federal Government.

He said of greater concern is the Nigerian non-oil export performance in recent times in comparison to import. Report from Pre-shipment Inspection Agencies (PIA) revealed a significant growth in export proceeds in the last 5 years 2017-2021 from $1.2 billion to $3.4 billion as against an annual average of $22 billion food importation alone into the country. 

Need for concerted efforts 

According to him, to close this gap, concerted efforts are required from all practitioners in the non-oil export value chain. 

In the same vein, the NEPC, according to Yakusak has evolved cutting edge-projects and initiatives to promote and develop the non-oil export economy. Part of Council’s efforts in this regard, amongst others, is the Zero Oil Plan, which was designed at the heels of the economic recession to make the country less dependent on oil while leveraging on the abundant natural and agricultural resources for foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and overall socio-economic development of Nigeria. 

Similarly, the Domestic Export Warehouse (DEW) initiative is a one-stop facility aimed at assisting exporters conduct their pre-export operations to ease logistical constraints. Of recent, the NEPC launched an Export Trade House in Egypt. In a few weeks, another Trade House will be launched in Lome, Togo.  The rationale behind establishing these Trade Houses is to enhance the visibility of made in Nigeria products and increase Nigeria’s market share in the host country as well as other neighbouring countries. 

This is part of NEPC’s strategic efforts at positioning Nigeria’s products in anticipation of the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Addressing constraints of non-oil sector

Focus on addressing constraints that continues to undermine productivity and the competitiveness of our non-oil sector, the NEPC recently committed N50billion to help position export oriented Nigerian businesses to play competitively within this regional market by building programmes as well as business plans, the fund is not just innovating in a way that it is set up but its implementation, the transparency of that implementation is one that the NEPC must be commended.

FG’s commitment on export capacity 

The Vice President , Prof Yemi Osinbajo while commending NEPC said commitment is to deepening the country’s productive and export capacity in the coming months and years is also evidence by the national development plan 2021-2025. 

According to him, the Federal Government is  determined to enhance the competitiveness of our businesses within what is termed as the largest single market in the world .

The strategic objective of the National Development Plan shows clearly where we are headed to in terms of the non-oil export which includes the establishment of a strong foundation for a diversified economy to invest in critical infrastructure enabling human capital, improving governance and strengthening security all of which we expect will contribute significantly to achieving the national development aspiration.

Guiding focus for local regulatory agencies 

“We have to focus all our attention on being productive, local investment is more important than foreign investment, once we show that our sole focus will be on productivity which will be a guiding focus for local regulatory agencies. What we are interested in is productivity which will bring jobs. We are determined to accelerate our efforts through holistic stakeholders input.

“The theme export for survival carries the urgency of the challenge that nation increasingly face, if we do not accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy. we understand and appreciate the extensive impact that this will have on our people, so we are committed to moving quickly and assuredly.

“Our considered response has been carried out on the dynamism of the Nigerian people and the multi-sectoral potentials for innovation and productivity at scale.

Leading charge to unlocking potentials 

“The second responsibility of government at all levels is leading that charge to unlocking this potentials  and this involves not just the federal government but the states also. We are on our way in respect to all our commitments. 

“The challenge facing our non-export economy is huge especially in the light of what has transpired in the last eight years.

“In 2021 Nigerian non-oil revenue stood at about N1.15trillion which represented the growth in GDP of about 4.75%  In the fourth quarters and a in ….of about 92.51$ to the nation’s overall GDP so in actual fact the non-oil economy has contributed to significantly to the GDP.

“In 2019 the year proceeding Covid-19 the normal oil revenue represented 92.68% of the total GDP so there again almost a 1% increase. The growth following the year indicates a  growing resilience of the non oil sector and it is very clear that we have also become even more susceptible to growth as oppose to shocks.

“Some of the country’s best stories are in the tech sector, with companies valued over $1billion each and all of these between two recessions. The tech sector is growing so well because there is a very large hand of the regulator upon it. 

Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment especially with the MSME clinics

“The country must seek to achieve a situation where regulators see themselves as facilitators of business. This has been the focus of the ministry of Industry Trade and Investment especially with the MSME clinics where we try to show that the very best approach is for regulators to see themselves as those that must promote business.

“Our jobs as government is to assiduously enable businesses especially with the regulatory polices with its procedures and processes. This must be coupled urgently with the supporting infrastructure needed to aid production distribution and network.