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Removing barriers to Nigeria’s non-oil export capacity

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Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah.

Exports thrive on a tripod of development, promotion and capacity building. Despite the potential in the non-oil export segment, lack of price competitiveness due to poor capacity, high cost of infrastructure and logistics, continues to limit growth in the sector. Latest NBS data show slow-paced growth in the segment though NEPC is optimistic of a reversal in trend. FEMI ADEKOYA writes.

From food to apparels and consumer goods, the nation spends a chunk of its foreign exchange on importing these items to sustain the economy, with few successes being recorded in local production due to operational challenges and inertia policies.

Although developed markets offer an array of opportunities to Nigeria and other developing economies, very little has been achieved in terms of harnessing such privileges to increase foreign exchange earnings of the country.

According to the data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) at the end of the first quarter this year, the nation’s exports value of N4.69 trillion was dominated by crude oil, though the proportion of non-crude oil export increased from 17 per cent in the last quarter to approximately 24 per cent Q1.

Specifically, total trade of agricultural goods in Q1, 2018 stood at N257.7 billion, in which exports and imports recorded N73.25 billion and N184.49 billion respectively.

Exports of agricultural products in the first quarter grew by 63.84 per cent compared to 44.71 billion recorded in the last quarter of 2017, while imports in the reviewing quarter decreased by 18.90 per cent compared to N227.50 billion recorded in the previous quarter.

Agricultural products in the quarter under review were mainly exported to Asia (N37.8 billion) and Europe (N32.7 billion).

Also, under the revalidated African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for African countries by the United States, Nigeria is yet to take advantage of the scheme due to the quality of exports originating from the country, suspension of intervention programmes and infrastructural challenges.

Worried by the slow-paced growth of the non-oil sector, industry stakeholders believe that operations in the sector need to be re-appraised for efficiency if government will get the best from the sector.

With government seeking to improve its earnings from the non-oil sector, stakeholders in the sector have suggested enhanced capacity building for exporters and revival of commodity boards to address quality challenges limiting the growth of the sector.

Leveraging women’s trade capacity to improve exports

Indeed, a report by Mckinsey Global Institute revealed that $28 trillion could be added to global Gross Domestic Product by 2025 by advancing women equality therefore laying credence to the fact that economic development and gender equality go hand-in-hand.

Acknowledging this opportunity, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Olusegun Awolowo, stated that most women cannot compete favourably with their male counterparts in business except a separate clime is created for them as a result of multi-dimensional constraints, adding that this was why the scheme was initiated to help address the constraints.

To this end, a programme called SHETRADE that would help women overcome some of the constraints they face at the global market was developed while a special desk was also created for the realisation of the initiative.

According to him, women are the backbone of practically all economies, especially the informal economy.

Therefore Nigeria must join other countries by working together to boldly make women business enterprises a significant contributor to the country’s economy and revenue.

Awolowo however stated lack of market access has continued to be one of the greatest constraints to small holder producers around third world countries, maintaining that deploying the use of information technology would go a long way to change the face of business transaction with e-commerce occupying a special place.

Changing the narrative by exploiting commonwealth markets

While the strategic effort by the NEPC and International Trade Centre (ITC) has been commended, lowering the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs at home and internationally, and helping more businesswomen to connect to international value chains, would bolster growth and gender inclusiveness in economic growth.

The Senior Adviser, Empowerment, International Trade Centre (ITC), Nicholas Schlapher, explained that the opportunities that abound in the commonwealth market are limitless, pointing out that ITC would be working across commonwealth countries including Nigeria to provide solutions on policy issues specifically to help drive women in business.

According to him, ITC would be providing technical assistance to Nigeria’s agricultural, power and service sectors, stressing that agriculture is key to drive economic growth in Nigeria considering the huge role it plays by contributing over 20 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing 45 per cent of the population.

Speaking on She Trades, a commonwealth initiative aimed towards creating trade impact for goods by fostering the inclusive and sustainable development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), Schlapher stated that the She Trades project expected to run till March 2020, is aimed at increasing economic growth and job creation in commonwealth countries by enabling women owned businesses to trade more.

He said: “She Trades is our newest project and the reason we are focusing on commonwealth countries is due to the shared values, the similar legal systems of institutions within commonwealth countries, there is really a potential for increasing trade relations and as a result of this, the cost of doing trade between commonwealth States is approximately 19 per cent lower than other countries.”

“We are here to support women businesses and to make them more competitive in international value chains.

We are going to be working across four countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Bangladesh to support 20,000 women in businesses that will generate investments to a value of £28 million by 2020.

Nigeria is very fortunate to have Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) as ITC’s primary partner,” he said.

He noted that women’s participation is essential to unlock the potentials of all countries around the world and to achieve the UN sustainable development goals.

In his words, “Over the last quarter of the century, trade has moved billions of people out of poverty, but however the benefits of trade have not been evenly distributed with women left behind. Trade by women enterprises can drive the economic inclusion of women.

It is really necessary for us to help women entrepreneurs to internationalize which would help to drive overall economic growth, job creation, prosperity and human development.”

He said overall in Nigeria, there are limits to women’s economic participation where only about 16 per cent of businesses are owned by women, a figure he said is a bit less compared to the global average of 38 per cent.

Also, Awolowo, said in a bid to meet the SDGs on gender equality, the council in collaboration with the She Trades commonwealth project is partnering to make women businesses significant contributors to the country’s economy.

He said the partnership would focus on integrating women into the economic fabric of Nigeria through connecting them to global trade, stressing that women are the backbone of all economies.

He stated that commonwealth states have the unique opportunity to trade lower costs within the extensive commonwealth network, saying that by leveraging the commonwealth advantage and the critical link between trade and gender, commonwealth can position itself at the forefront of promoting sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development.

He observed that Nigerian women supply approximately 70 per cent of agricultural labour, 50 per cent of animal husbandry related activities and 60 per cent of food processing, but yet have access to only 20 per cent of available agricultural resources.


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