‘Our target is to modernise factories through access to new equipments’
Dele Alimi is the Managing Director of Clarion Events West Africa, one of the organizers of this year’s Nigeria Manufacturing Expo (NME). In this interview with FEMI ADEKOYA, he talks about how the expo will among other objectives, connect equipment makers and raw material providers to manufacturers, in order to build capacity utilization in the real sector as well as drive effective and efficient production..
Can you give an insight into the Nigeria Manufacturing Expo (NME) and what makes it different from other Expos?
Four years ago, Clarion Events in collaboration with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) started a discuss session called “Manufacturing Partnership for African Development” (mPAD). These sessions were exclusively for C-Level industry stakeholders, top government officials from the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment, top officials of the CBN and other development finance institutions. The sessions had frank discussions about the Nigerian industrial sector, its challenges and proffered solutions. The sessions came up with action note for government and the private sectors.
One of the aftermaths of these sessions was the maiden edition of the Nigerian Manufacturing and Equipment Expo, which was held in 2016. The Expo was meant to bring together manufacturers of the much needed equipment that would help boost industrial development tin Nigeria and the actual manufacturers who needed these equipment. This we believe will address the problems of modernization, retooling and efficiency in the production process.
So, unlike other exhibitions founded on the commercial needs of organisers, this exhibition was requested by the stakeholders. This is what makes the Nigeria Manufacturing & Equipment expo unique. Another unique feature is the fact that the 2017 edition of the NME expo is having the Nigerian Raw Material Expo (NIRAM expo) and the Multimodal West Africa Exhibition co-located with it. This means that the exhibition is a three-in-one show that is exploring the entire value chain of the manufacturing sector.
Why are you organising this event at this time?
The 2017 edition of the NME is the second edition of the show. The first one that held in 2016 was a resounding success as both visitors and exhibitors confirmed that the exhibition met their expectations and that it was indeed the best they have attended in terms of the quality of organisation and the volume of business and also the quality of business visitors. This became a motivation for the continuation of the event. It even became more important, when you consider the current state of industrialisation in Nigeria and the need to bridge the gap in the local production capacity of the Nigerian economy. The show will provide an opportunity for existing manufacturers to retool and modernize their factories through access to and purchase of new equipment.
You will agree with me that this show cannot come at a better time than now when our country is looking to revitalize our economy through rapid industrialisation. We are therefore supporting the federal government of Nigeria in this quest for national rebirth in industrialisation and we will continue to do so as a responsible corporate citizen.
Capacity remains a challenge for the nation’s real sector. What are the possible partnerships that may emerge from this expo?
As I explained earlier, capacity building is one of the major targets of the expo. We are providing free-to-attend workshops, master classes and conferences in various challenging areas of the Nigerian manufacturing sector. We have also invited resource people who can deliver value to business visitors at the event. We are exploring solutions in financing, supply chain management, production efficiency among others. This is coming free to the over 5,000 manufacturers we are expecting at the show and this will definitely bridge the various capacity gaps that have been identified.
In addition to this, there is a tremendous networking opportunity for both exhibitors and visitors to the event throughout the three days. So apart from the primary objectives of connecting equipment manufacturers and raw material providers to the manufacturers, we will build the knowledge, management and utilization capacities of the manufacturers so that they can be more effective and efficient in production. These programmes are targeted particularly at micro, small and medium size organisations to help them in their quest for survival and quality improvement.
What sectors within the value chain will the expo target for efficiency?
Primarily, we will be focusing more on the productive sector, where through introduction to modern equipment and better management of the production process, we expect great improvement in their efficiency. It is expected that these will translate into better management of companies and improve productivity and better economy of scale in the production process.
Similarly, we also expect that the expo will prepare small businesses for better access to cheaper funds through interaction with development finance institutions like the Bank of Industry, NEXIM and the Bank of Agriculture who are participating actively in the expo. We also expect that with the opportunity for improvement of Standards through greater and better interaction with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, we will create a more cordial relationship between manufacturers and the SON. This will no doubt assist manufacturers in their quest for standardisation of their product, make them more relevant for export as they meet world standard in their production. So, the expo is really about improving efficiency along the entire value chain of the manufacturing sector.
What is your assessment of Nigeria’s present level of import substitution? Do you think the Federal Government is committed to the agenda? How much of import substitution can be achieved with exposure under the expo?
It is normal for any country in the world to import goods and services. Importation itself is not a bad thing. The truth is no country can completely provide all its needs. Also, countries of the world rely on each other for survival. However, our case in Nigeria is only made worse by our over-reliance on importation. We are so hooked on importation and we import virtually anything and everything under the sun. That unfortunately is the bane of our economy. We need to take serious steps to correct this anomaly. The good thing about this is that we, as a nation, have come to terms with this reality. When a nation has this wanton appetite for foreign goods, we can only end up where we are now. Unfortunately, we do not have the money for such luxuries any more. We therefore need to produce and consume what we produce. We should have done these thirty years ago, but the next best time is now.
It is therefore gratifying that the federal government is putting plans in motion to promote and encourage local production of goods. Incidentally, this is not the first time that we have this kind of commitment, but our government had always lacked the political will to see it through.
The agenda requires commitment to follow through. It cannot in any way be short term or mid-term, there must be a long term agenda that requires the commitment of both the public and private sectors of the economy. We would need to ensure that this agenda transcend a particular regime or dispensation and it should become a national priority that should get the buy-in of everyone interested in the survival and development of Nigeria.
As I stated earlier, the NME Expo is targeted at industrialisation and I think it is our own major contribution to this import substitution agenda. When Nigerian companies can have access to more modern equipment and the manager of this organisations have access to capacity building workshops and conferences like those being organised during the NME, we have started our journey into viable and sustainable industrialisation.
You noted that there will be a review activities of the manufacturing sector in the past 12 months as well as provision of insights into fresh challenges hindering the growth of the sector. Are you working with the Federal Government to ensure that concerns raised are addressed and solutions provided?
Yes, the mPAD session, which would be the fourth in the series, will address the above. This session would be attended by not more than a 100 major stakeholders from the public and private sectors concerned with the industrialisation agenda. We have confirmed participants from the Federal Ministries of Industry Trade & Investment, Central bank of Nigeria, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, NEXIM, Bank of Industry, SMEDAN, Bank of Agriculture on the government side WE also have the Executive Committee of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and other CEOs of big, medium and small size companies in Nigeria.
The group will discuss quick wins, medium term and long term targets which would aid rapid industrialisation of Nigeria. We will come up with communique at the end of the exercise, which would be reviewed every year to monitor progress of implementation, while still addressing fresh challenges.
How many participants are you expecting at this year’s Expo andwhat should they look out for at the end of the event?
As I speak with you, we have over 5,000 registered visitors to the event. This is a great boost compared with 2016. This may not be unconnected with the fact that this year’s edition is addressing the entire value chain of the manufacturing sector with the co-location of the NME Expo with the NIRAM Expo and the Multimodal West Africa Exhibition. For exhibitors, we have over one hundred and fifty (150)across the three exhibitions.
At the end of the Expo, we are sure we would have added great value to Nigeria’s manufacturing sector and we should have created synergies between manufacturers, logistics and supply chain providers and raw material producers.