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Zenith Bank’s Drive for Nigeria’s Non-oil Exports’ Growth

Zenith Bank’s Drive for Nigeria’s Non-oil Exports’ Growth

Dike Onwuamaeze highlights efforts by the Ebenezer Onyeagwu-led Zenith Bank Plc to promote activities in the non-oil sector

Nigeria’s dwindling oil revenue provides the nation a painful but indispensable opportunity to look inwards in a bid to trigger economic growth, experts have said.

They also stressed the need for Nigerians to appreciate locally manufactured goods such as fabrics, saying such would make local industries thrive and boost economy.

Nigeria has the potential to become a major player in the global economy by virtue of its human and natural resource endowments. However, this potential has remained relatively untapped over the years.

After a shift from agriculture to oil and gas in the late 1960s, Nigeria’s growth has continued to be driven by consumption and high oil prices. Oil accounts for more than 95 per cent of exports and foreign exchange earnings while the manufacturing sector accounts for less than one percent of total exports.

However, to diversify the country’s revenue base, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the bankers’ committee have embarked on several initiatives to promote non-oil exports.

In 2022, the RT200 FX Program, which is an initiative aimed at raising $200 billion in non-oil export earnings over the next three to five years was introduced.

Zenith Bank, whose Chief Executive Officer, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has never hidden his desire to see a Nigeria with a diversified revenue base, is one of the institutions at the forefront of the RT200 programme.

Zenith Bank remains committed to promoting the non-oil export sector in Nigeria by identifying emerging opportunities which help stimulate non-oil exports and develop robust financial products and incentives for operators in the sector.

As part of efforts towards promoting non-oil exports in the country, the bank had introduced its annual trade seminar, where it gathers stakeholders in the sector and across sectors of the economy to brainstorm on opportunities in Nigeria’s non-oil export business. The bank launched the seminar in 2017, as an initiative to deepen the discourse on promoting the non-oil export business in Nigeria.

Onyeagwu believes that the Zenith bank’s annual trade seminar serves as a veritable platform to deepen the conversation on promoting non-oil export in Nigeria, bringing together non-oil export practitioners and relevant government agencies to interact and explore the opportunities and proffer solutions to the challenges of non-oil export in the country.

He had disclosed that the bank has trained over 100 exporters through its ‘Zero to Hero’ programmes which provides a platform for grooming and exposing beginners to become strong exporters by providing training on documentation, product sourcing, access to market and financing.

He had also promised that Zenith Bank would continue the advocacy of promoting non-oil export.

Commenting on the outcomes of the past six seminar editions, Onyeagwu noted that previous editions’ outcomes have found expression and influenced policy initiatives.

He gave an instance of the extension of the period of repatriation of non-oil export proceeds from 90 days to 180 days and the policy mandating shippers not to carry export without a Nigeria Export Proceeds (NXP) Form Number, as part of the recommendations from previous seminars.

According to him, the need to incentivise exporters to repatriate their export proceeds through the official channels and the recommendation to create export terminals across various export hubs in the country were also from past seminars, adding that previous editions recommended having export desks in commercial banks, which has now been instituted.

For Onyeagwu, expanding the country’s non-oil export has remained a matter of strategic economic importance requiring continual intervention.

He pointed out that the impact of the pandemic on oil demand and, by extension, the price of crude oil in the international commodities market further exposed Nigeria’s over-dependency on crude oil earnings and its susceptibility to oil-related vagaries.

“The expectation is that export diversification programmes and initiatives will intensify as Nigeria continues to re-orient its export profile and boost foreign currency earnings. Reinvigorating the Nigerian economy calls for measures to reduce the country’s dependence on oil exports.

“It requires expanding the array of the country’s value-added products that are exported to foreign markets. When combined with the promise of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), more non-oil exports translate into enterprise and industry level competitiveness with positive implications for job creation and technological development while enabling the country to earn and save much-needed foreign currency,” Onyeagwu explained.

On his part, the Founder/Chairman of the bank, Mr. Jim Ovia, had emphasised on the need to diversify Nigeria’s export base through the promotion of non-oil exports.

He noted that Nigeria exported cocoa and several other non-oil products for years before oil was discovered.

Citing an example of the 25-storey Cocoa house in Ibadan, which was built with proceeds from cocoa exports, he said many countries in the world, such as Japan and China have been successful because they are doing a great deal of innovation, production and manufacturing of goods and services.

Ovia advised the country to look at promoting the nation’s non-oil export sector through technology to create technological giants like Apple, Tesla, and Google.

“We already have technology companies in this mold in Nigeria, such as Flutterwave, which has a valuation of $3 billion, making it more valuable than some banks in Nigeria,” he said.

He said the most capitalised companies in the world, such as Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Tesla, and Visa, among others, are not oil companies but are in the technological innovation space.

Furthermore, he highlighted the phenomenal growth of Nigeria’s emerging financial technology (Fintech) companies such as Flutherwave, OPay, Interswitch, Kuda and Paystack, with market valuations of $3 billion, $2 billion, $1 billion, $500 million, $200 million, respectively. According to him, this underscores the enormous opportunity in the Fintech space.

In his remarks at the trade finance forum organised by Zenith Bank, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, noted that the apex bank had undertaken several initiatives to promote the non-oil export sector because of its firm belief that the non-oil export sector holds enormous potential to contribute to employment generation, wealth creation and economic growth of the country.

“The global economy and structure are changing rapidly before our eyes. The previous world economic order underpinned by globalization and seamless trade possibilities seems to be suffering major disruptions lately. We believe Nigeria has a lot of potentials, and we can harness this for the good of our people and country,” Emefiele had said.

He pointed out that the CBN had undertaken several initiatives to promote the non-oil export sector because of its firm belief that the non-oil export sector holds enormous potential to contribute to employment generation, wealth creation and economic growth of the country.

Under the leadership of Onyeagwu, Zenith Bank Plc has consistently been honoured, both at home and abroad.

For instance, the bank recently emerged as ‘Bank of the Year in Nigeria’ in The Banker’s Bank of the year awards 2022. The award, which was announced by The Banker Magazine, Financial Times Group, United Kingdom, during an awards ceremony held in London, on December 1, 2022, was in recognition of Zenith Bank’s strong management, sound business model and strategy, support for small businesses and efforts to cut energy consumption.

According to the Banker, Nigeria’s Bank of the Year award was among the continent’s most hotly contested this year, befitting the country’s status as Africa’s largest economy. This came on the heels of the award as Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital by The Banker won by Zenith Bank earlier in the year.

Commenting on the award, Onyeagwu had said, “winning the Bank of the Year attests to our tenacity as an institution despite a very challenging operating environment exacerbated by persistent macroeconomic headwinds.

“Indeed, being recognised by The Banker – the world’s longest running international banking title, is an acknowledgement of the resilience of the Zenith brand as the leading financial institution in Nigeria and the West African sub-region.”

He had lauded Ovia, for his guidiance and pioneering role in laying the foundation and building the structures for an enduring and successful institution, the Board for their outstanding leadership, the staff for their commitment and dedication as well as the Bank’s customers for their unflinching loyalty to the Zenith brand over the years.

Regarded as the industry standard for banking excellence, The Banker’s Bank of the Year award is contested by the world’s leading financial institutions, with winners chosen across Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Western Europe.

Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has continued to earn it numerous awards, including being recognised as Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital, for the 13th consecutive year, in the 2022 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Best Bank in Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria 2021 and 2022 in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022; Best in Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, by the Ethical Boardroom; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation In Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards. Also, the Bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021, Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and Retail Bank of the year, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards.

Similarly, Zenith Bank was honoured as Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020 and emerged winner in four categories at the Sustainability, Enterprise, and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards 2021, carting home the awards for “Best Company in Reporting and Transparency”, “Best Company in Infrastructure Development”, “Best Company in Gender Equality and Women Empowerment”, and the coveted “Most Responsible Organisation in Africa.

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