Fidelity’s Strong Hand

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As the country continues to find several means of diversifying from oil, one financial institution is helping to strengthen Nigeria’s export industry through partnership and direct intervention, writes Mabel Benson

On June 29, 2017 Nigeria exported 72 tonnes of yam to Europe and the United States from the nation’s premier port in Apapa. “Oil and gas cannot employ millions of people just like agriculture so, we must work hard to move from oil to earning foreign exchange from agriculture,” the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said at the time.

The yam exportation was a landmark achievement because it represented a shift in the kind of products the country exports. Ever since the 1980s, when crude oil poured an avalanche of riches into Nigeria’s coffers, the country’s export system has been built around it. But with the decline in crude oil’s popularity as an energy source and the kind of economic shocks that hit the country if the prices go low, it has become imperative for Nigeria to diversify its export offerings.

“Just like we buy so much from them, it is time for them to buy from us,” Ogbeh said of the yam exportation scheme. “I assure you this is how the economy of Nigeria we are dreaming of is going to recover. The only challenge we may face will be the question of labour. The young men who make heaps are reducing in number because they are moving to the cities, riding ‘okada’ and looking for white collar jobs.”

The leading government agency leading the charge of export diversification and partnering with the ministry on the yam scheme is the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, which is responsible for regulation, promotion, recording and monitoring of export trade in the country. The agency is at the forefront of executing government policies and distributing incentives, as it relates to exportation.

However, government alone cannot be expected to drive the export campaign; the private sector also needs to get in the act. One of Nigeria’s top lenders and financial institution, Fidelity Bank Plc, is doing just that.

One of Fidelity’s most important tools for supporting the export industry is its Export Management Programme (EMP). Launched in 2016, the EMP is a sector focused capacity building programme run by Fidelity Bank in partnership with the Pan-Atlantic University and the NEPC, to deliver impactful, world-class export management education to aspiring and existing players in the Nigerian non-oil exports sector of the Nigerian Economy

The programme, which prepare participants for effective play in the international non-oil export markets in particular and the larger export markets in general, has continued to raise the bar of capacity building in exports in Nigeria. Its unique curriculum is structured to take participants through courses bordering strategically on product development for export; developing linkages with customers in importing countries; understanding the various export processes, accompanying documentation and other requirements in Nigeria and key importing countries; export products storage; quality assurance, branding and packaging, sourcing and supply chain management, logistics and shipping, export finance, business ethics, and many others.

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo, who gave valuable insights into the rationale behind establishing the EMP, stated that the financial institution remains highly committed to aiding the diversification of Nigeria’s monolithic economy particularly through import substitution and export promotion.
“We finance a lot of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria,” he said. “A number of these MSMEs have strong export potentials. It was therefore a natural fit for us to partner with the Lagos Business School (LBS) and the Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC) to make this happen given in particular, recent developments in the global oil markets and the impact they have had on the Nigerian economy.”

In addition, Okonkwo emphasised the need to boost non-oil exports and build sustainable non-oil exports capability which he affirmed is now at the heart of the country’s diversification strategy. “Exporting not only improves foreign exchange (FX) earnings, but countries most successful in exports have stronger links to wealth creation, employment generation and sustainable poverty reduction.”

Four streams of the EMP have since been held since 2016 whilst efforts are in top gear to host the fifth stream (EMP 5) which has been scheduled for Monday, 25th September to Friday, 29th September, 2017. The imminent programme comes heavily loaded as it is coinciding with the first anniversary of the EMP initiative which has uniquely positioned it to have woven around it, a number of the key activities already slated for the commemoration of this first anniversary of the programme.

EMP 5 will, in addition to its usual focus areas, also seek to shed significant light on key policies/programmes recently released by government to boost non-oil exports and in particular, how intending exporters can take advantage of them.

Some of these recent policies include the Investors and Exporters FX Window announced by the CBN a few months back which allows exporters to sell their FX proceeds at market rates as opposed to the official CBN rate; the requirement for shippers to ensure that bills of lading in respect of exports from Nigeria carry the Form NXP number of the underlying cargo to ensure that all exports from Nigeria are carried out through the formal channels, etc. The highly regarded faculty of the EMP made up of renowned academics from the LBS faculty, relevant authorities from key governmental bodies that help drive exports, experienced hands-on exporters, and others will be on hand as usual, to do justice to all of the above and many more.

The reputation of the EMP as the go-to, must-attend focused capacity building programme for aspiring and existing exporters in the Nigerian market has continued to be attested to by testimonials from participants of previous streams of the programme. For example, Fidel Buchi Anyi, an EMP 4 participant said, “This is the direction banking in Nigeria should go-Giving before asking! Strategically helping small businesses before requesting for accounts.”

Speaking in the same vein, Etinighovwa Richard, another EMP 4 participant described the programme as “a very rich, enlightening and professional programme delivered by a world-class institution. I learnt the fundamentals of export management with regards to Nigeria and key foreign markets.”

In fact, Mr. Adesola of EMP 1 hit it quite strongly with his impressions. “The EMP is very informative,” he said. “It has saved me from potential pitfalls in my export business.”

On the back of all of the foregoing and many more, Fidelity intends to continue to strengthen the EMP in collaboration with its partners, to ensure it retains its strong position in the market as the platform of choice for capacity building in the exports area and is alive to celebrate many more anniversaries of its creation.