By Henry Uche, Lagos
Operators in the Nigerian export business may have cause to smile as the new president of Nigeria Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), Dame Adebola Williams, has vowed to boost the volume and value of Nigeria’s exports to America.
At her decoration as the 19th President of NACC, she pledged to strengthen trade relations between Nigeria and the United States of America to shore up Nigeria’s export indices.
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Williams also said her administration would strive to boost activities and schemes aimed at enabling members of the chamber to package their products for exports to the US, as she appreciates David Russell, Head of Commercial Section, Lagos Consulate, United States Embassy.
“No country survives without a massive amount of export. Thus, in NACC, we shall leave no stone unturned to ensure that Nigeria gains more from products exported to the United States. Our members stand to benefit a lot from our Professional members thus: In technical-know-how, packaging and other relevant supports. We want to ensure that we come up with quality and well-packaged products that meet international standards and are accepted, we can’t afford to lag behind,” she maintained.
In a remark, the Chairman, Phillips Consulting Limited (pcl) Foluso Phillips, who spoke on “Nigeria America Trade Relations”– Back To The Drawing Board, says most countries, blessed with many natural resources would use the same to finance their industrialization.
The Philips boss affirmed that conventional wisdom says Nigeria should have used our oil revenue to drive our natural competitive advantage by developing competencies in the agricultural value chain.
“We must build core competence and add value to our comparative advantage and maximize returns. The USA has developed unparalleled competencies in technology and innovation like many other countries where they have comparative advantages. Nigeria ought to have taken advantage of its abundant human and natural resources, but we lost it when all eyes were on oil,”
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“Today South Africa derives more value to its economy from a litre of wine we buy from them than we derive from a litre of crude oil we sell to them. After all, all we do is ship out crude oil extracted from the ground and sent off without even touching our shores. The winemaker in SA grows his vineyards on acres of land, employs thousands of people on the wine farms, tending and caring for the grapes, harvesting, processing, storing, bottling, packaging, merchandising, branding, advertising, shipping and logistics and export, touching the lives of so many people and creating wealth in the process.
“It’s a shame that our oil revenue’s value is depleted because we have to import refined products and then subsidise its sale to the detriment of our development and growth,”
The renowned industrial economist queried where lies Nigeria’s core competence? Saying, “We have missed the boat, but the destination has not changed. Nigeria today does not have the mechanical, technical nor technological competence to be what I call a Heavy metal “producing nation”.
“The core natural skills (aside from traditional education), the confidence in the people, its application of skills and global leadership in technology and continuous innovation, gives a country continuing position of leadership,”
“We, therefore, have a great opportunity to change the paradigm of Nigeria’s trading policy, which has hitherto been challenged because of our industrial inabilities,”
He stressed that it has become so clear that the only areas in which Nigeria is making a great name for itself are those in which the government has nothing to do with it.
The management consultant gave an analysis: “According to data credited to The Federation of State Medical Boards, there are 3,895 Nigerian-educated doctors licensed to practice medicine in the US.
“It was further disclosed that 6,536 licenses were held by these 3,895 doctors, with the greatest number of licenses issued by the states of Texas (11%), Georgia (7%) and New York (6%).
“So, the question is, would the chamber look to these Nigerians trading their services abroad as exports and engage with them as they would organisations exporting goods and services? Should the chambers not start working with them to see what type of support they need?”
He maintained that it’s not about us facilitating access to the markets for the USA, rather it would be about what the country can sell and ship to them as products or services from Nigeria, appreciating that the range of such products and services has expanded and coming from new sources within the economy.
He asseverated that the job of the Chamber is to boost trade – our trade to the USA, hence the USA already knows how to access Nigeria’s market, similarly, we need to know how to access there’s for the nature of products and service we provide.
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“The United Kingdom and especially Canada have asked our young talented people to emigrate to their countries. Of course, they are picking on our best talents, and we are all without exception feeling the pinch.
“According to the U.S Embassy in Nigeria, “Nigeria sends students to study in the United States more than any other country in Africa”. According to the US open doors data, no fewer than 12,860 Nigerian students are enrolled in over 1,000 educational institutions in the US in 2020-21.
“Nigerians make up the largest students cohort from an African nation and the 10th largest worldwide. In 2020, the population of Nigerian students in the U.S was 13,762.
“It’s time to trade these skills as an asset of the country. I am almost tempted to demand that countries extracting our human assets, to which value has been added so much to make them attractive to end up being poached, should be taxed,”
He added that income tax received by foreign countries should be shared with Nigeria because of the investment Nigeria has made in training its human capital. He noted that even Nigerians who were trained abroad, each one was funded by Nigerian parents. “I know that would be a hard sell, but it’s such a loss to this country for now.
“Our culture, fashion, music, art, sporting skills, and even technical and academic skills, which generate enough revenue in foreign lands to have $23bn remitted, far outstrip oil as a wealth-creating resource.
There was an online advert titled “remote American Software jobs available”, where software developers are being sought from Nigeria, with no visa requirement because the jobs are available in Nigeria even though they are for America. Obviously, these jobs are dollar-denominated and globally competitive.
“This chamber must focus on how it can inspire Nigerians to sell to the USA, especially in areas that we are showing competitive advantage and global competence. It is not about our government making money from this, it’s for our people to trade their skills and capabilities and be paid handsomely for the global value they offer.
“Whilst we cannot manufacture competitively, there are SMEs that are excelling in their own area, and individuals that are doing more where their talent comes to play.
“Going back to the drawing board is asking for a total change in mindset with respect to what we must be trading with the USA. Trade depends on the competitiveness of goods and services offered to the partner country. In the case of Nigeria, we are defining our competitiveness in unexpected areas that are glaring but not obvious.
“So the challenge is for the Chamber of commerce to seek new and innovative ways to connect itself to this new world of trade and see how it can add value to the experience of those that are now actively operating in it, by offering support through linkages, advice, connectivity for access to the US through constant communication with the embassy”
He recommended that whilst the US pursues ways to enhance its own level of trade with Nigeria, through the support that the Chamber provides to U.S businesses, such must continue to be reciprocated by the US to a differing form of Nigerian enterprises.
“It’s time to go back to the drawing board and take on the new paradigm. Apart from the old ways of supporting trade, a much new context will be applied in seeking a much wider platform of engagement between the two countries.
“The USA has become a recognised trading partner with Nigeria and the data we have reflects this. Total exports to the U.S from Nigeria between 2012 and 2021 were estimated at $62 billion. Of this figure, crude oil accounted for 83% (51.9 billion) Source: U.S. Census Bureau).
“This means, putting oil aside, Nigeria only managed to export $10bn worth of goods and products over a nearly 10-year period to the USA. The main items include cocoa, nuts, precious metals, tea, fish etc.
“If we flip the coin in terms of U.S exports to Nigeria, the total exports from the US to Nigeria between the period were estimated at $37 billion. These were made up of passenger cars (new and used), trucks, buses, and special purpose vehicles (21%), Petroleum Products (18%) and Wheat (14%) in order of size between 2012 and 2021 (Source: U.S. Census Bureau).
“Ranking recipients of our exports from Nigeria to various countries, the USA takes the 6th position, after India, Spain, France, Netherlands, and South Africa. Whilst in terms of imports to Nigeria from other countries, the US is third after China and India,” he added.