Non-oil exports as key to economic development and diversification – Toni Kan

Nonye Ayeni, incumbent Chief Executive Officer at the Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC) was upbeat on Thursday January 18, 2024 as she reeled out figures and statistics at her first major press briefing since taking over the reins at the Council.

“Since I assumed office on the 16th of October 2023, the performance of the non-oil export sector has showed clearly that the sector offers massive potentials for growth and is pivotal for economic development and diversification.”

For years, Nigeria has paid lip service to diversifying the economy away from the mono-cultural reliance on oil as our economic mainstay.

From the figures made public by Mrs. Ayeni, The seasoned banker and financial expert appointed to lead the council in October 2023, the country seems to be turning the corner.

Total value of non-oil exports in 2023 stood at $4.5bn. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics as reported by TheCable indicate that the non-oil sector contributed 94.52% of GDP in Q3 2023

In her briefing the CEO of NEPC noted that the NEPC recorded an increase in the volume and value of exportable goods and services leading to earnings that will enhance foreign exchange inflow and facilitate the stability of the naira.

NEPC is redoubling efforts in repositioning the sector for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in alignment with the Industrial Revitalization Plan of the Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite and the Renewed Hope Agenda of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR).

The council recorded 6.685 million metric tons of 273 exportable products ranging from manufactured, semi-processed, solid minerals to agricultural commodities and reflecting an uptick of 28.04% compared to 2022.

Urea and Fertiliser which contributed 20.10% of the total receipts led the way as the top two exports indicating improved momentum in the manufacturing sector.  Cocoa Beans and Sesame Seeds came second and third with 13.19% and 9.03% respectively.

Indorama-Eleme Fertilizer and Chemical Limited and Dangote Fertilizer Limited contributed close to one billion dollars to the nation’s coffers with $524.4m and US$383m respectively.

Mrs. Ayeni’s time at the council is already yielding results. A memorandum of understanding signed between the NEPC and the Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment and Technology (COMCE) in November 2023 has led to a surge in exports receipts from Hibiscus flower which has been propelled into the top 10 rank of exported products.

Banks remain pivotal to the realisation of a geometric increase in the value of non-oil exports. By taking advantage of the opportunities that exist in the non-oil export sector especially in the form of financial support to exporters, Nigerian banks will help non-oil sector producers enhance their capacity to scale up production and access international markets.

2023 witnessed increasing activity in this regard with 32 Nigerian banks participating in the processing of 21,390 NXP forms in 2023. Three major banks led the pack in this regard with Zenith Bank, UBA and First Bank processing 39.03%, 10.55 and 9.88% of NXP forms respectively during the period under review.

With 1,145 companies actively exporting Nigeria’s products in the year 2023, there is a huge market for banks willing to play in the sector where growth will be boosted with adequate funding, capacity building and mentorship.

In terms of capacity building, the NEPC facilitated a total of 92 capacity-building programmes held across its Regional offices in the 6 geo-political zones in the period under review with 13,751 participants attending.

These workshops are critical in downscaling and communicating some of the new projects and initiatives from the council and they include: Operation Double Your Export which is geared towards significantly increasing non-oil exports to improve foreign exchange earnings and for economic growth and diversification; “Export 35 Redefined” which focuses on already identified top 20 agricultural products to provide intentional support from the farm gate, through the value chain to market access; NEPC CONNECT a result-driven customer service team to help bridge the gap between exporters and the council; ELITE SQUAD, agile and nimble teams created to drive some of these initiatives and make a success of them; Go Global, Go For Certification” campaign which focuses on ensuring that exportable goods meet with global standards thus limiting cases of export rejects which impact negatively on non-oil export receipts.

The council is working with relevant agencies like NAFDAC and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and others to create awareness, build capacity in the area of good agricultural practices, labelling and packaging and ensure adherence to quality and standards of Nigerian exports in the global market.

The addition of two exit points for products has given a fillip to the ease of moving goods out of Nigeria. Following the coming on stream of Lekki Deep Sea Port in Lagos and Ohunbe, a new border in Ogun State, the number of exit points comprised of seaports, international airports, and land borders has now increased to 21 with the South-West and South-South accounting for over 90% percent of the total non-oil exports.

Collaborations, trade agreements and partnerships have proven to be game changing for the non-oil export sector with Nigerian goods exported to 124 countries across jurisdictions from Africa to the Americas, Asia to Europe, and Oceania.

Brazil, China, and Japan emerged as the sweet spots for Nigeria’s non-oil exports. Africa is however lagging behind even though improvement is expected as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) gains momentum.

In the year under review 13 ECOWAS countries (excluding Cape Verde) actively imported Nigerian products amounting in volume to 1.6 million metric tons of and valued at US$ 343.9m with Ghana leading the way as the top sub-regional destination for Nigerian non-oil exports.

In the New Year, the council according to Mrs. Ayeni will continue to develop new initiatives and programmes to push forward the diversification agenda. There would be a renewed commitment in its collaboration with NACCIMA in hosting an international Trade Fair while prioritising the council’s participation in international fairs and setting up The Export Trade Houses (ETHs) and Domestic Export Warehouses (DEW). The DEWs would provide a one-stop-shop for exporters to­ drop off their goods, and have them processed, packaged, labelled, and tested by laboratories before undergoing inspection and documentation.

NEPC has a new sheriff in town and it is business unusual as the drive towards diversification gathers steam.

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