Driving the economy through non-oil export initiative

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*NEPC director general, Mr. Segun Awolowo

By Ime Akpan

The recent Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) Business Women Group (NAWORG) Export Conference 2018, held in Lagos in collaboration with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) assembled Nigerian exporters, manufacturers, traders and entrepreneurs from all sectors of the economy.

With the theme ‘Nigeria Export Trade: Focusing on the chains and regulations’ facilitators of export business provided objective, unbiased views to aid the country’s economic development through non-oil exports.

In his keynote address at the event, the chief executive officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Olusegun Awolowo said crude oil has served Nigeria for more than 60 years and that there is need to find a new anchor for future growth.

He pointed out that almost all oil producing countries around the world had concluded they must diversify their exports to build truly sustainable economies.

“Over 195 countries are committed to reducing their consumption of fossil fuels. It means over 195 countries will be buying less oil in years to come. Nigeria’s customers are therefore planning to buy less oil very soon. This is a major shift in what the global economy will look like in coming years, and a threat to oil rich nations. All major oil exporters have therefore taken notice, and have now made ‘exports diversification’ away from crude oil their top economic priority.

“We are in complete agreement that our nation’s economic growth must be export driven through export-oriented manufacturing and industry. Indeed, NACCIMA has been a strategic partner in the formulation of Nigeria’s Zero Oil Plan. The Zero Oil Plan identifies 22 sectors where Nigeria has both comparative and competitive advantage in world trade and the specific international markets to penetrate,” he stated.

To achieve rapid export diversification, Awolowo said plans are afoot to review Nigeria’s export regulations to drive the nation’s non-oil exports and ensure that the country’s export regulations are simple, clear and more importantly not unreasonably costly to exporters.

“Regarding export regulations, Nigeria has come a long way, but still has some work to do. The consideration for exporters are to manage regulations on two levels – starting with export regulations in Nigeria, and ending with import regulations in target markets of our products.

“Regarding Nigeria’s export regulations we are in the process of a comprehensive review of the steps, costs, and efficacy of implementation. Our objective is to ensure export regulations in Nigeria are – simple, clear, and more importantly not unreasonably costly to exporters. In addition to the above, some of us are aware that the federal government is also reviewing regulations and procedures more broadly, he said.

He added that the federal government had established the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), saddled with the responsibility to shore up Nigeria’s competitiveness, promote Nigeria as an investment destination of choice, and improve the country’s business environment (The Ease of Doing Business).

He said PEBEC had implemented within 60 days a total of 31 reforms.  “Consequently, Nigeria climbed up 14 steps in the global ranking of the World Bank 2018 edition of the “Ease of Doing Business Index”, and was also recognized as one of the top 10 most improved economies in the world,” he added.

“To achieve our goal of rapid export diversification he emphasised that effective export chain management and compliance to regulations play an important part in whether “we succeed or fail in our export revolution.”

“It is a known fact that Nigeria is blessed with exportable agricultural products, solid minerals, manufacturing products, among others.”

He said the federal government had begun to accelerate the pace at which many of Nigeria’s non-oil sectors can begin to contribute foreign exchange stressing that “Nigeria is not an economic island and must integrate into pre-existing international supply chains.”

“Nigeria is at an economic inflection point. Crude oil has served us well for over 60 years, but now we must find a new anchor for our future growth,” he said.

He stated the need for Nigeria to create a conducive business environment to attract the ongoing international re-allocation of production and processing facilities from richer countries to developing markets.

He also said Nigeria would define and implement a comprehensive framework of trade agreements and fiscal instruments to improve its access to global supply chains.

“These conclusions are essential to linking Nigeria’s exports to the global supply chains, and are key elements of the current national exporting agenda. No economy can survive without exports. The NEPC is committed to playing a lead role in accelerating and providing a conducive environment for Nigeria’s effective participation at the international market space with a view to reaping for the economy, significant foreign exchange from the global pie. NACCIMA has been a trusted partner for us in the past, and will remain so going forward.”

In his paper entitled ‘The role Of SON in facilitating non oil export’, the director general of the organisation, Mr. Osita Aboloma said one major task of the present administration is to diversify the economy which currently solely relies on the proceeds from crude oil sales.

Aboloma who was represented by a director in the agency, Mrs. Tosan Akin-Akosile stressed the need to move away from hydro-carbon resources.

He said the crash in the prices of crude oil at the global market, free fall in the national currency as well as scarcity of foreign exchange are strong signals that the days of depending solely on oil revenues are over.

One major task of the present administration is to diversify the economy of this country which solely relies on the proceeds from crude oil sales.

The urge, in fact, became loud with the crashing in the prices of crude oil at the global market, free fall in the national currency (the Naira) as well as scarcity of foreign exchange. The crude oil output in Nigeria also dropped due to activities of vandals and Niger delta militants.

President Muhammadu Buhari urged Nigerians as a matter of urgency to produce locally what they consume. The campaign to buy made-in-Nigeria goods/ patronize locally made products is being re-echoed, said Aboloma

He said SON with its mandate and a key player in establishing the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) is relentlessly working on how the country can increase its non-oil products tremendously.

He said SON, with its mandate and a key player in establishing the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) is relentlessly working on how the country can increase her export on non oil products tremendously

He said SON is using conformity assessment, standardisation, accreditation and metrology to facilitate non-oil export.

“SON focuses strongly on standards elaboration so that our locally manufactured products have a benchmark (specifications) used in their production, thus producing products of good quality that will not only give consumer confidence but global competitiveness of Nigerian products. This in turn will boost export of made in Nigeria products. Same standards are used to ensure that imported goods meet the minimum requirements of the product(s) standard. This will prevent the country from becoming a dumping ground for substandard products and a threat to our local manufacturers,” he added.

For her part, the national president of NACCIMA, Iyalode Alaba Lawson, said Nigeria had relied on crude oil revenues as its main source of national income and supply of foreign exchange.

However, with  the  crash  in  the  global  prices  of  crude  oil  in  2015,  she said the  Nigerian government  stopped  paying  lip  service  to  the  diversification  agenda  and actively began to implement a non-oil export plan.

“Our contemporary history and over-reliance on the oil and gas sector as the mainstay of our economy as followed the boom and burst cycle of crude oil prices. Today, as global prices of crude oil appear to rise to pre-2014 levels, we as a country should avoid repeating past mistakes. Available statistics provided by the National Bureau of Statistics show that Nigeria’s non-oil exports per annum, declined by as much as 70% from 2014 to 2017. In contrast, Nigeria’s non-oil exports for the 1st Quarter of 2018 have exceeded the total value of non-oil exports for the year 2016. This is an indication that our non-oil export policy can work if we pursue it vigorously.

She said there is so much to do to bring “our non-oil exports to satisfactory levels given our potentials in this area” and pledged NACCIMA’ devotion “to  ensuring  the creation of a conducive atmosphere for the pursuit of commerce, industry and all other forms of economic activities of interest to the private sector.”

Lawson called for cooperation saying “if we work jointly to develop a robust non-oil export trade,  we  would  have  taken  a  significant  step  in  our  quest  for  true diversification and move away from our dependence on the boom and burst cycle of the prices of crude oil.”

“NACCIMA,” Lawson added “will continue to partner with stakeholders to promote the growth and competitiveness of businesses by ensuring an enabling environment through policy advocacy and information dissemination.”

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