Creating a platform for agro-allied export in Nigeria
ABX WORLD is a first class globally recognized courier/cargo firm with interest in the freight of agro-allied products from Nigeria to the rest of the world, especially Europe. The firm’s global network is richly enhanced by their strategic alliances with some of the biggest and best players in the industry. Captain John Okakpu, the Managing Director, is passionate about repositioning Nigeria in the world map using agro-allied products. He explained that the agro-allied sector has the capacity to earn millions in FOREX for Nigeria and create 20 million jobs in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
What motivated your interest in Agro-allied products?
It is one thing that led to the other and you look at connectivity. If what you are looking for is connected to your passion, it makes it a lot easier and interesting. It’s kind of funny today that away from what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, I’m saddled with a project that will make a lot of difference in the country. In my experience of flying aircraft over the years, I realized that most aircraft that come into Nigeria go back empty. Unfortunately, we don’t manufacture anything that can be exported. What we are doing is to bridge the gap in the industry by making agro-allied products available for export. We want to refocus Nigeria using my experience and I must tell you that we are not doing badly at all. My goal here is to bring Nigeria back to where we are supposed to be by exporting agro-allied products to the rest of the world.
What has been your biggest challenge in view of the fact that agriculture is not attractive in Nigeria?
Agriculture has always been attractive; it’s just that people are too lazy to get into it. We keep mentioning agriculture as the means of diversification whereas agriculture is not new to us. Diversification simply means going into a new venture that you feel will give you a positive outcome. Agriculture is where we started from, so what we are doing in essence, is correcting the mistakes that have been done over the years. I’ve written to the Federal government to create a subsidy on agricultural export especially by air. I can confidently tell you that 95Million Dollar worth of subsidy can create over ten million jobs in two years.
Have you gotten any support from the government on this project?
This is exactly where the problem lies. As a matter of fact, the reason why agro-allied industry is not thriving in Nigeria is because of government. The reason is that they don’t give a damn about what is happening in the sector. All you have been hearing about agriculture is basically hype. What the leaders have done over the years as politicians is that they use agriculture as campaign tools. There is nothing practical on the table. The success or failure of agriculture is largely dependent on the policies of government. The only way the government can help is to empower the people and when they do well, they will in turn, collect taxes from the farmers to boost their IGR.
On the Anambra connection:
It is only Anambra state that has done practical things to support and promote agro-allied industry. The Governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano is so passionate about agriculture that when he saw our proposal, he jumped at it, and is determined to make it work. The first thing we did was to get the Anambra farmers together and started training and certifying them on new farming techniques. The government set aside close to N2Billion as intervention fund to be accessed by farmers on a single digit interest rate. What we did was to create the platform to get off-takers that will buy the products off the farmers. What surprised me most is that the governor was ready take his commissioners on a training programme on agro-allied to help them fully understand how it is done. Government has a lot to do in terms of policy directions.
What benefit has the partnership between ABX world and Anambra state yielded?
When we entered into agreement with the state government, we discovered that they have gone very far. For instance, the State has over 1400 corporative societies and they have gone to the extent of training most of the farmers and also the certification of the corporative societies.
“The next step was the geo-mapping of the area for easy identification of the farmlands from any part of the world. This is a sure step to curb the incessant rejection of agro-allied produce from Nigeria at the European and the rest of the world markets. The EU certified trainers were in Nigeria recently. So, after that training and certification programme, the participants are guaranteed of three years contract to supply agro-allied produce to Europe and can use it for the rest part of the world. He said that ABX World will use its partnerships around the world to make a difference, create agricultural revolution whereby we bring in the off-takers to take agricultural products as long as they meet the international standard and requirements.
Do we have the capacity to attain self-sufficiency in food production?
What we have done is to make sure that whatever we does not disrupt the local supply. In as much as we need foreign exchange, we also need to eat. What we are doing basically is to create the platform for people to be able to feed themselves and then for export. Currently, Kenya is the leading country in the sub-region in agro-allied export but logistically, it is cheaper to move agro-allied products from Nigeria to Europe. This gives us a better competitive advantage. We can dominate the world in terms of agro-allied products; we have the land, the weather as well as the people to serve the world. Basically, my mission is to reposition Nigeria to serve the world in agro-allied products. It’s a 50Billion dollar economy. I’m proud to tell you that ABX is the only company in Nigeria to be certified by Global GAP. That has given us the platform to explore the world after serving the local market.
Projections in the next couple of years:
We need to wake up now that oil price has fallen to low index. This is the time to return Nigeria to where we used to be and invest heavily in agriculture and agro-allied products. We are in talks with Wal-Mart who will be coming to Nigeria to inspect the cold room facilities we have at the airports and you know what that means. To focus on agriculture, you need huge numbers of well-trained farmers, who will in turn form co-operative societies. You also need the supply chain that will get the products to their destinations, as well as warehouses, storage and packaging facilities. Our goal is to create 20 million jobs in two years, while Nigeria will be able to generate $52b annually from the export of agro-allied products alone.
What drives you?
I want to play a part in changing the country. When you think and empower the people, the economy becomes better. We have started a process that we make us sign a contract of supplying 50million tubers of yam annually. The strength comes from the success we’ve made in the society.