The Nigeria Export Promotion Council says Nigeria has 22 major products that can fetch it up to $30bn in foreign exchange annually. The Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, NEPC, Mr Segun Awolowo, said this on Thursday in Lagos at a non-oil export conference and awards held under the aegis of the Policy Development Facility Phase II.
He said the council had been at the forefront of zero-oil campaign as well as pushing the products for export. Awolowo listed the products in this class as cotton, rice, leather, gold, soya, sugar, cocoa, petrochemicals, fertilizer, palm oil, rubber and cement. Others are tomato, banana, oranges, cashew, cassava, sesame, spices, ginger, shea butter and cowpea.
He noted that Nigeria had run a mono-product economy for too long, leaving the country vulnerable to oil price shocks, adding that the latest outbreak of coronavirus had further compounded the problem. He lamented that despite having enough people in the academia and government knowing that diversification was key, not much had been achieved.
Awolowo said NEPC developed the zero-oil plan after the economic recession of 2016, triggered by the crash in global oil prices, and it came up with the 22 products. He said, “Nigeria has run a mono-product economy for too long. We have been left vulnerable to oil price shocks, the latest of which we are seeing now with the outbreak of coronavirus. “Despite academics and policymakers alike knowing that economic, and in particular export diversification, is crucial to our sustainability, true diversification has eluded us.
“In response to the 2016 economic recession, triggered by a crash in oil prices, NEPC developed the zero-oil plan. The plan is a strategy for boosting foreign exchange through the non-oil sector, preparing Nigeria for a world in which crude oil is less relevant, mainly through rolling out export policies for 22 major products that could generate up to $30bn in foreign exchange a year.”
He added that the NEPC initiated the export projects and investment tracking in each state of the federation as part of its “one-state one-product scheme. “Of course, I must also mention the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, the world’s largest free trade area. While the US and parts of Europe, notably the UK, are looking inwards,” he said.
While calling on Nigeria to take advantage of AfCFTA, he said the potential was there for the country to increase its exports to other countries in Africa. He said, “We should look at AfCFTA with excitement and not fear. Egypt, for instance, imports $1.39bn worth of soya beans annually. Kenya imported $860.5m worth of iron and steel in 2018.
“These are two very contrasting products, but for both, Nigeria has strong comparative advantage. These are just two examples that show that the demand for products that Nigeria produces already exists on the African continent. We just have to tap into it.” While commending the initiators of the programme, he appreciated the generous support of the UK’s Department for International Development for supporting the growth of the non-oil export sector in Nigeria through PDF II.
On her part, the programme manager, PDF II, Dr Titilola Akindeinde, said the PDF II, a private initiative, had been a vanguard for the promotion of Nigeria’s non-oil products and services. She said it also provided in-depth knowledge on AfCTA before the country finally signed the agreement. She noted that the work stream arm of the initiative focused on three key areas – trade policy and business environment reforms, access to market and access to finance.
Though she said the PDF II programme would end this month, she added that a bridge-gap programme called ‘champions of change’ would replace it. Stakeholders at the event called for a holistic approach to growing non-oil export businesses in the country, stating among others that manufacturers must understand the requirements of exports and produce products that met international standard.
There were different plenary sessions on topics such as ‘Growing non-oil export business in Nigeria through effective market entry strategies’, and ‘Growing non-oil export business in Nigeria through export enabling policies.’ This was followed by the launch of the Network of Practising Non-oil Exporters of Nigeria and presentation of awards.