Building Local Capacity for Exports

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Goddy Egene
writes that Fidelity Bank has stepped up efforts in building capacity for local exporters through its export management programme

Recent developments in the global energy market and local oil and gas industry have heightened the need for Nigeria to diversify its economy away from crude oil. This has become more important as some of the leading countries who import oil are looking to become oil independent economies in the not too distant future.

Exporting of non-oil commodities and finished products will not only improve Nigeria’s foreign exchange revenue profile but will also help drive employment generation, sustainable poverty reduction and internally generated revenue both at the state and federal levels.  The federal government in realisation of this is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the economy is successfully diversified into other sectors especially agriculture and solid minerals.

A sizeable number of Nigerians are ignorant about the quantum of agro commodities and solid minerals prevalent in the country and the geographical distributions of these products. This ignorance cascades down to the seasonality, the countries of export, product uses, intermediate products obtainable from the primary products and their international prices. There is no gain saying the fact that the availability of this key information can spur interest that could ultimately push people to trade internationally and become self-reliant thus making Nigeria export dependent rather than the current situation where it is import dependent.

In  a move hailed by several stakeholder as highly exemplary,  Fidelity Bank Plc has devised a strategy to equip customers and non-customers alike to develop the much needed skills set to understand the intricacies of exporting the various commodities and minerals which the country is richly blessed with in great abundance. This, the bank is doing through the Export Leadership Institute (ELI), which was launched in collaboration with Lagos Business School (LBS) and Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC).

That initiative, which was launched in August 2016 has led to the birth of the Export Management Programme (EMP). Three EMP series have been held since then whilst efforts are in top gear to host another (EMP 4) later this month. The programme is designed specifically to provide impactful, world-class training needed to improve the competitiveness of Nigerian enterprises, particular export-oriented businesses and the associated value players in the global market. It aims to prevent the pit falls that were prevalent in the past when huge sums of money were lost owing to lack of capacity and knowledge on the part of exporters.

Nigerian banks have over the years classified export business as high risk principally because of the huge volume of documentations involved. More so, some banks feel reluctant because of multiple jurisdictions as well as quality and quantity specifications that need to be met at both ends. Bankers also place high emphasis on logistics because of the vital role it plays in the export business value chain.  Given the above scenario it is imperative for an exporter or intending one to understand that the rudiments and intricacies of export business are getting higher especially given that global competition has become more intensified in terms of quality, price, supply chain management and dependability of delivery systems. Similarly, changing consumer and regulatory preferences are changing producers’ responses to these signals.

The EMP streams were oversubscribed underscoring the level of significance that people and organisations attach to the programme. At the completion of each exercise, participants were awarded an Export Manager Certificate, including a post-programme Export Marketing Plan project. The curriculum for the programme  covered areas such as Nigerian exportable items and locations; incentives for exports, domestic policies and export institutions; product development processes for export; exploring solid minerals for export and exporting services. Others included: exporting services; business negotiation skills; roles of government inspection agents; role of Federal Produce Inspection Services; transportation and logistics management, export financing and documentation; and the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Expectedly there have been positive fallouts from this initiative. Each of the streams THISDAY gathered has formed export co-operatives and are already geared towards doing their first export transaction. In a similar vein, however, individual participants and corporates, who participated have been buoyed by the knowledge acquired.

For instance, speaking about his experience, Mr. Oyewusi Tajudeen of  De Epicurean Limited, said:  “The program is knowledge-packed, an eye-opener to the essentials. It is totally worth it. I am in the process of achieving my exporting dreams.”

For Ndubuisi Chijioke of Jimcol  Resources Nigeria Limited, the programme  was encouraging to his aspiration to explore export business opportunities.

 “The programme  has been very informative and encouraging to my aspiration to explore export business opportunities,” Chijioke said.

For Amina Ibrahim of Moonstar Nigeria Limited each session proved more informative and interesting.

“Every session and everyday was better than the last. I highly recommend the programme for anyone wanting to venture into exports,” she declared.

 Speaking about the EMP, Fidelity Bank CEO, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo said: “We are doing the tough job of financing SMEs in Nigeria. A number of them have export potentials. It was therefore a natural fit for us to partner with the LBS and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council to make this happen. A well-diversified Nigerian economy is germane to economic growth and development. When the economy grows, businesses flourish and banking thrives better. It’s a win-win for all.”

 Already there is increasing clamor to have replicas of the program in Kaduna and Abuja to cater for the market outside of Lagos. The management of the bank and its partners- LBS as well as the NEPC is considering acceding to the request of the intending participants to take this to other parts of the country. This need is occasioned by the fact that a sizeable number of people who play in the agriculture and solid minerals sectors are not in the North.

Fidelity Bank has over the last couple of years, built one of the strongest Micro Small Medium Enterprise (MSME) franchise in the country.  Through its free, dedicated (one-on-one/ group) business advisory service offerings and other capacity building initiatives such as SME focused seminars/conferences held across the country, the bank has helped over 170, 000 small businesses raise their level of competitiveness in the international marketplace.