By AYO ALONGE
The Acting MD/CEO of Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Bashir Wali, bares his mind on potentials in export trade, which are yet to be fully harnessed by majority of Nigerians. In this interview, Wali also reveals some recent activities of his bank while stressing the potentials for export trade by Nigerians.
Taking a proactive approach, how do we begin to drive the potential of non-oil export trade in the country?
It’s by taking the steps we are taking. From the government side, intervention funds are being provided, which is over 50 percent off borrowings in the country. Facilitation and capacity building are also going on by several agencies of government. The Nigerian Export Council is also at it and even NEXIM. The organized private sector too is doing it as well as financial institutions like Fidelity Bank, which is taking the lead in canvassing and raising awareness generally. We are all looking at the potential in the sector and what can be done locally.
You just talked about intervention funds. How will NEXIM, under your leadership, ensure that prospective applicants have easy access to the funds?
Go to your commercial banks, ask and they will give you the necessary guidance. These funds, especially the N500billion for the export sector, is accessible through the commercial banks.
Could you tell us about recent activities of NEXIM?
Since this economic crisis started, what we set in place was actualized through the approval of both the funding scheme and the guidelines for both the export stimulation facility and the real discount and real facility scheme. These guidelines were finally approved in June this year and between June and August, we went around on an awareness drive on capacity building in consonance with the organized private sector including Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. We hosted two awareness programmes here in Lagos, which were sponsored by Fidelity Bank. We also had one in Kano. I have also spoken at various fora organised by several business associations like the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce to build up awareness and sensitize the general public on the opportunities available and the process of enrolment for the intervention funds.
How much of the N500 billion intervention funds has been disbursed by NEXIM?
The process has started and I have always stated that. The CBN is working on disbursement.
When will the funds be disbursed?
I believe that is anytime the CBN concludes arrangements on that. There is always a set time limit for it. From the moment of the submission of completed document, we have 20 working days between the time of approval and disbursement.
Don’t you think bureaucracy may limit the process?
In what respect?
In terms of the prolonged process of disbursement of funds to prospective exporters….
It takes time for the banks in charge to build capacity. It takes time to create awareness even among the beneficiaries. In most cases, it is not like the usual proposal that can easily pass the litmus test. In terms of documentation, we have to meet the requirements and all the criteria. That is why all those who could not get the necessary guidelines have to be back-logged for the commercial banks to take the necessary steps and rectify their deficiencies. Everything has a due process especially when it comes to processing funds.
How can people benefit from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act?
The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act is an act of the United States Congress. It provides opportunity for developing countries like Nigeria to take advantage of exporting goods to the United States. So far, Nigerians haven’t taken full advantage of the policy. What we’re not doing well is in the area of harnessing the opportunities and it is about how Nigerians can take advantage of opportunities to maximize foreign exchange earnings for the country through exports.
What are we not getting right in the area of exports compared to what is obtainable in the rest of the world?
I think it’s for us to resolve to follow due process and not cut corners.
Could you highlight the importance of packaging for export trade?
Packaging is everything. If you don’t properly package your goods, you may not satiate the standards of the destination countries and it could lead to rejection.
Could you please talk about transport and transit packaging as areas for added advantage in export trade?
It’s with regards to shipping and intra-Africa trade, particularly trade within the ECOWAS sub region and Central Africa. If you take the whole of the Gulf of Guinea from the Democratic Republic of Congo down to Mauritania, the Atlantic Ocean is common to all of us. Some of the ports are deep water ports and some of them are shallow ports. If you are shipping bulk cargo and you use a ship with a deep berth or draft, what happens to it is that it can only go to specific ports adapted for it in West Africa. If you are talking of movement of goods from port to port along the West and Central African coastal areas, then you need ships suitable for port to port movement in terms of draft of the vessel. Most of these shipping companies would come with large ships that would take goods in bulk and move them from here to their own offices or the port, put the goods in smaller vessels and resend them to Africa. For a trader moving goods from Nigeria to Gambia, it would take twice the time which reduces profitability.
Since you assumed office, what loopholes within the export system of the country have you been trying to address and which policy is of paramount importance to you?
The primary area of interest to us is to improve our exports generally and to improve on our ability in working on Nigerian entrepreneurs to produce to standards and observe quality control measures so that whatever we are doing, it meets up with international benchmarks.