By Efemena Edherigho
The current economic stagnation in Nigeria has naturally made it imperative to spotlight the activities of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC.
This is more important considering the nexus between the core mandate of the NEPC and Nigeria’s search for possible ways out of the present economic quagmire.
Considering that the drive for economic diversification from non-oil dependent economy is an issue of concern to the nation, understanding the role the agency is playing in that regard, becomes very necessary.
Findings into the affairs of the agency under the leadership of Mr. Segun Awolowo depicted an organization that has initiated key policy actions aimed at boosting the nation’s diversification efforts.
The notable programs formulated in the regard were found to include Zero Oil Plan Initiative, Women in Export Development, Capacity Building for Exports, Cashew Processing for Export, Strategic Partnership with Los Angeles University and CBI Technical Support for Promotion of Nigeria’s Exports among others.
Interestingly, these were discovered to have been carefully created to boost contributions from the non-oil sector to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of Nigeria.
To complement the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, and in consonance with its mandate, the NEPC initiated the Zero Oil Plan Initiative, ZOPI.
It was learnt that as a major component of the ERGP, the ZOPI has been committed to boosting the supply of foreign exchange from non-oil sectors by driving growth in five key areas.
With the focus of generating US$30billion from 11 selected strategic export products, competencies, comparative and competitive advantages of states and zones, are being by explored through the One State One Product programme.
Having identified 22 targeted export destinations, the NEPC was found to be committed to sourcing of products through the launching of the first National Export Aggregator and Strengthening of Export Development Fund ,EDF.
With such prioritization experts believe that competitiveness of export business is being enhanced.
Also, the initiative was found to have prioritised the following objectives: Growing of the non-oil foreign exchange from $2.7 billion today to $30 billion, diversification of export base from raw materials to value-added, achieving $706 million non-oil export to West Africa Sub-region by 2017, increasing non-oil export as a percentage of total export from five percent to 20 percent by 2018, increasing participation of SMEs in export trade by 50 percent and creation of 1.5 million new jobs in the SME sector by 2020.
To further encourage and enhance the level of participation in export business, NEPC identified women as the key players, especially given the realization that women own about 30 percent of registered SMEs in the country. They were also found to own 40 percent of start-up businesses across Nigeria.
Hence, the decision of NEPC to partner the International Trade Centre, ITC, so as to maximize the benefits of gender engagements.
This partnership birthed the SheTrades scheme at the Women in Export Stakeholders Forum in Abuja, which is being supported by the Federal Ministry of Industry.
Further findings showed that the programme was initiated to connect one million women entrepreneurs worldwide to market by 2020.
According, this pursuit, it was learnt, is in line with Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, especially, the resolve to eliminate extreme poverty and achieve gender equality in education and work by 2030.
An entrepreneur, Chief Silas Okeleke, who spoke on the initiative, said: ‘’Either goal cannot be attained without the other. And neither can happen without Africa’s biggest economy Nigeria. With the SheTrade initiative, ITC and the NEPC are working together to empower women to trade for a better future for Nigeria, for Africa, and for the world.’’
In a move that affirmed its commitment towards galvanizing every sector of the nation’s economy, the NEPC, it was learnt, has been a major supporter of the gigantic strides of Innoson Motors.
For instance, it has concluded arrangements for Innoson to export 400 vehicles to Mali following the company’s readiness to sign Memorandum of Understanding with Taxi Plus and VIP – two major transport companies based in Mali.
This was gathered to have been a product of the Made-in-Nigeria Products Exhibition which was held in Bamako in Mali. It was an exhibition that was facilitated by NEPC in collaboration with Ginco Group, a Nigerian firm based in Mali to showcase Nigeria’s exportable products.
To encourage commercial production of cashew for export, NEPC made it possible for an Ilorin based Cashew manufacturing company, Foodpro Limited get a credit facility.
The facility was to be used for the procurement of cutting-edge equipment and machines for cashew processing with the aim of making the product competitive in the international market.
That action came on heels of Nigeria’s participation at the World Cashew Convention in Singapore, which exposed stakeholders to latest technologies in the business.
There was also the participation of some Nigerian designers at the Buyers Fairs in Las Vegas, USA, which was facilitated by NEPC. It was gathered that the objective was to make Nigeria a sourcing destination of repute for high-ended and contemporary apparels and accessories.
Though some these feats may appear modest to some, they attest to the efforts of NEPC at stimulating, developing and promoting non-oil activities that would help increase Nigeria export capacity.