As the adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic continues to buffet the global economy and the wellbeing of its peoples, stakeholders in the export sector are also working round the clock for strategies that would sustain Nigeria’s economy beyond crude oil.
These effects can be gleaned from the burden of the protocols imposed to curb the spread of the deadly disease including the near total lockdown of the economy among other restrictive measures.
With the death toll across the world still on the rise, coupled with rising cases of infected people from the pandemic, unemployment, hunger and the threat of a global economic recession now loom large.
Nigeria is not left out in the emerging crisis, explaining why the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) among other Federal Government institutions has committed to implementing various non-oil export programmes to support the Muhammadu Buhari government’s Economic Sustainability Plan to keep the Nigerian economy running.
For Mr Olusegun Awolowo, Executive Director /Chief Executive of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), the age- long statement by Dr. Robert Schuler that “Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do”, appears apt as a driving force and impetus to renewed efforts at keeping the non-oil economy afloat amid the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the sector.
As the Federal Government sole agency responsible for driving the economic diversification agenda away from oil to non-oil, the NEPC’s efforts to navigate the country from the negative impact of the virus, appear to be yielding the desired result.
Since it was established, 44 years ago, the Council through some intervention projects and programmes has rekindled the interest of many Nigerians particularly the exporting community in maximising opportunities in the sector which will in turn aid their contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The Zero Oil Plan (ZOP) is part of a strategic initiative to boost supply of foreign exchange from non-oil sectors by driving growth in five key areas”, said Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, Executive Director/CEO, of NEPC.
He noted that the overall objective is to focus on generating $30 billion from 11 strategic products, review of Trade Agreement to prioritise Nigerian exports to 22 newly targeted export destinations, strengthening of Export Development Fund (EDF) scheme to enhance competitiveness of locally produced goods.
Awolwo added that domestic sourcing of products through the National Export Aggregator and exploring the comparative and competitive advantages of states through the One State One Product initiative (OSOP) was also key to this objective.
This can better be appreciated now that the dwindling oil revenues, due to disruptions in the global economy from recession, and now COVID-19, are underscoring the need to diversify the economy through generation of non-oil revenue. It is also becoming more compelling to diversify the economy to increase its earnings capacity especially now that increasing pressure is being brought to bear on the Federal and state governments to provide the much needed infrastructure and leadership in the overall efforts to guarantee economic prosperity for the citizens.
According to the NEPC boss, this is the immediate task the Council is now spearheading in its desire to diversify the economy by expanding and increasing non-oil export for sustainable and inclusive growth.
The 22 ZOP Strategic Products
Under its 22 strategic products, the NEPC had listed products that could generate up to US$30 billion in foreign exchange a year to includecotton, rice, leather, gold, soya, sugar, cocoa and petrochemicals. Others are fertiliser, palmoil, rubber, cement, tomato, banana and oranges. Also included are cashew, cassava, sesame, spices, ginger, shea butter and cowpea.
One-State One-Product (OSOP) Initiative
In the OSOP inititaive, the NEPC takes cognizance of the country’s comparative advantage in terms of the vastness of its natural endowments as well as effort to diversify government’s revenue base using the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP). OSOP is expected to shore-up the revenue of the 36 states of the Federation, provide jobs as well as create wealth along the value chain by developing and promoting one product for export per state.
For the National Committee on Export Promotion (NCEP) inaugurated in September 2017 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and chaired by the Jigawa State Governor, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, driving the implementation of the ZOP through strategic programmes like the Establishment of an Export Trading Company of Nigeria through a Public-Private Partnership initiative, a domestic export warehouses/aggregation centres for exportable products and provision of an Anchor Borrower Programme for Exporters to support major off-takers from MSMEs for expor is a task dear to the heart of the NEPC.
Development of Priority Export Products
In the meantime, the Council is focused on the promotion of Non Traditional Products (NTP) as a strategy to provide opportunities for would-be exporters to invest in the sector. The attraction of this initiative for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) in NTP remains quite strong due to their propensity to yield very high returns under very conducive operating environment.
Some of the areas under the NTP the Council intend to prioritise include the Promotion of local cuisine, Horticulture, Sugar cane production and food items and related Services – which includes: Information and communication technology (Business Process Outsourcing and Software), Financial Services (Banking and Finance) Educational Services (Knowledge-based activities) and Entertainment (Movies and Music).
Zero to Export Capacity Building Programme
In addition to efforts in other areas of endeavour, the NEPC has continued to pursue capacity building programmes for exporters with a view to enhancing the sector’s performance.
This intervention programme is in line with the economic diversification objective of the of the present administration.