“Mr. Segun Awolowo commented that the problem is “we are not earning foreign exchange” from the diversification of the Nigerian economy. This is because the very poor quality of Nigeria’s infrastructure makes it very difficult to get those goods into foreign markets on time, cost effectively and in good quality”.
Olusegun Awolowo, the Executive Director/CEO Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), has revealed that his agency’s Zero Oil Plan, a strategic initiative to diversify Nigeria’s export portfolio, will see Nigeria’s non-oil exports rise to $30 billion in value and constitute 20% of GDP by 2025.
Nigeria’s non-oil exports typically averages around $5 billion per annum, excluding “re-exports” e.g. vessels imported to Ghana via Nigeria for the purposes of avoiding trade barriers or duties. Non-oil exports constituted 8.3% of Nigeria’s GDP in 2020.
Awolowo was speaking at the Arbiterz webinar, ‘AfCTA: Revamping Nigeria’s Infrastructure for Global Trade’. He said Nigeria could live with reduced oil exports by increasing its non-oil exports. He shared a list of 24 products which will be prioritised in order to boost Nigeria’s non-oil exports. These include soybeans, cocoa, palm oil, sugar, hides and leader, tomato, cashew, spices, cassava and oranges. The Zero-Oil plan is expected to generate additional 500,000 jobs. The webinar was sponsored by the Nigerian Export Import Bank.
Mr. Awolowo shared NEPC’s plan for developing a “Field to Export Transport Corridors” which identifies “key export roads”, “rail links” and “key ports”. He made it known that the NEPC is collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Works and the Nigerian Ports Authority to execute key infrastructure projects that link key produce markets all over the country to export facilities in Lagos.
Equally, the NEPC is working with the The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to enhance safety around Nigeria ports as security concerns make ships avoid some Nigerian ports. Ships travelling to these ports incur very high insurance costs.
Mr. Awolowo revealed that the plans to decongest Apapa port is already paying off, making it known that 7,000 tons of cocoa was exported from Calabar port in April 2021, marking the first time in 40 years that agriculture produce was exported from the port. He commented that it “doesn’t make sense” to transport cocoa harvested at plantations in Ogoja in Cross Rivers State to Lagos ports to export.
Ade Adefeko, Vice President at Olam, Nigeria’s largest exporter of agricultural produce pointed out the difficulty of transporting agriculture exports from plantations in the Calabar area to Lagos- trains have to return empty as there are no businesses sending goods in the other direction. This points to many structural economic problems such as the lack of density of economic production and trade in Nigeria.
To promote the Zero-Oil Plan, The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) is drilling down on problems that are more amenable to quick interventions such as providing shared processing facilities for businesses exporting agricultural produce, clothing and cosmetics and cold room facilities for those seeking to export perishable items such as vegetables and sweet potatoes. Crucially, capacity-building which will assist Nigerian exporters in obtaining fair trade, organic and other product certifications is part of the NEPC’s strategy to boost non-oil exports. Nigerian produce such as beans have been banned from European markets for unacceptably high level of chemical residues. Nigerian exporters of products such as cashews have lost markets to other exporters with consistent product quality and who are better prepared to meet the so-called phytosanitary conditions. It remains unclear the extent to which the NEPC has rolled out the interventions to assist Nigerian exports meet quality and safety standards and obtain valuable product certifications.
Nigeria produces many goods, especially agriculture produce, that the world needs, often in very good quantities. So, the country’s production structure is quite diversified. Mr. Segun Awolowo commented that the problem is “we are not earning foreign exchange” from the diversification of the Nigerian economy. This is because the very poor quality of Nigeria’s infrastructure makes it very difficult to get those goods into foreign markets on time, cost effectively and in good quality.