By Sunny Chuba Nwachukwu
The non-oil exports strategy Diversification of the nation’s economy through exports of non-oil (made in Nigeria) goods or services to the world markets is a key economic strategy that requires urgent and critical attention at this moment that economies are reopening after the lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic impact on most world economies has left huge costs that are being counted now.
For Nigeria, two critical governmental agencies that have worked tirelessly, making several attempts towards
economic growth through improvement in business/commercial activities at the international markets (by export operations), namely the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission
(NIPC), should now ordinarily be able to increase the tempo of their core values and the services they render
to the private sector of the economy.
They now need to intensify efforts to see that non-oil sectorial businesses are fully developed and built up for competitive export operations; as other economies are equally restarting at the same time.
This opportunity of equal access to competitiveness should be exploited for the nation’s economic recovery, after our past mistakes of the ’60s in not sustaining our prime and leading position on some agricultural produce at the global market.
With our rich endowment in abundant arable farm lands, very favourable weather condition with farming climate, and our rich species of cash crops; Nigeria can still recover its past leading positions on some goods and services.
Food security is of essence, and it calls for improved, commercial agriculture through mechanised farming, for food exports and to also actualise food self sufficiency within the economy. All it takes to succeed again is determination! Since we were able to do it before (effortlessly), we can do it again!
In the sectors of agriculture and manufacturing, for instance, full scale commercial agriculture with its ancillary services along their specific value chains, by recreations and huge production outputs of all its allied finished products are of essence now. It will position the economy towards an enhanced high performance in productivity and
economic recovery. Those products that are made where the economy has comparative advantage on their raw materials should be encouraged, aggressively pursued and promoted for exports.
Nigeria’s over-dependence on crude oil as a major source of revenue affected and resulted in our poor attention to other sectors like the agriculture and services that constantly point to industrial revolution for the continuous and sustainable growth of the economy.
It actually led to the abandonment and numerous moribund giant manufacturing outfits initially set up in the economy (e.g. the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill). These can now be rebuilt for another phase of economic recovery through exports of goods that will compete favourably at the global markets.
The federal and state governments’ economic recovery programmes must be timely, to leverage on the opportunities created by the hurting and deadly scourge, the COVID-19 pandemic challenges and global lockdown that has started to unlock gradually in phases.
We can key into this window of opportunity now, to showcase our locally processed finished goods from non-oil
sectors at the international markets. For example, with the near total collapse of the global distribution chains
and channels; confectionaries (the likes of chocolates) being imported into the West African sub-region (15 ECOWAS countries) from the United Kingdom (UK) or United States of America (USA); can now face stiff and tough competition from Nigerian made brands, if premium quality brands are moved out early to dealers within the same markets in
the sub-region, where the likes of “Loshes Chocolate” from Lagos, or the newly set up multi billion naira Cross
River State ultra modern chocolate plant, can quickly secure and retain some market share (no matter how small, as a market penetration strategy).
With those markets appreciating such new brands as equal match (in terms of quality and taste) when compared to
the existing stocks from the UK or USA, at even cheaper prices, market penetration and retention can be assured.
This timely market penetration strategy could be used as a veritable tool to create big market in the near future, for the made in Nigeria chocolate that already has comparative advantage over those manufactured in the UK because, our agricultural sector from South Western Nigeria produces the raw material (cocoa pods) in abundance!
This example of cocoa farming to one of its finished products, processed along its full value chain before export,
is one means by which the economy could restart and achieve the desired recovery and fast growth Nigeria desires as it divests to non-oil exports.
The new opportunities thrown by the COVID-19 are to be seized by visionary entrepreneurs to launch into the new normal. This golden moment demands creative ideas and innovativeness from new entrants into the respective export
markets. The ultimate target the economy should aspire to actualise is to retain the economic status of the trade
hub in sub-Saharan Africa, especially now that the continental multilateral trade agreement, Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is about to take effect.
Frontpage January 4, 2018