By Merit Ibe
OPerators in the nation’s non-oil sector have noted that the survival of the Nigerian economy was dependent on the success of improving the non-oil export sector.
The stakeholders, who barred their minds at the annual Non-oil Export Conference, Exhibition and Awards (NECEA) organised by Network of Practicing Non-Oil Exporters of Nigeria (NPNEN), pointed out the need for effective participation of the sector in global trade, especially within the framework of the recently operationalised African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Facilitator of the hybrid event, Mrs Senami Ohiomokhare, noted that the purpose was to advance the dialogue on how to reposition Nigeria’s non-oil export for competitiveness in the light of the AfCFTA agreement.
According to President of NPNEN, Alhaji Ahmad Rabiu, the theme of the programme: ‘Rebuilding Nigeria’s Economy through Non- Oil Exports: A Strategic Imperative,’ was pertinent at this time in the nation’s economic life where it can be rightly inferred that non-oil exports offer the only plausible solution towards a timely reversal of the fast-dwindling revenues of non-oil exports and a dramatic drain of the nation’s foreign reserves.
Critical stakeholders in the sector including top officials of government, civil society, private sector, the media and academia dialogued on how to refocus the non-oil sector.
They noted that after six decades of independence, crude oil still contributes about 90 percent to foreign earnings and is still a major driver of the economy, expressing the view that the survival of the economy is dependent on the success of diversification – improving the non-oil sector as well as non-oil exports.
The actors opined that the government at all levels must see the effective diversification of the economy as an urgent task, which will have huge positive implications on employment, poverty reduction and the overall competitiveness of the economy.
The need for Nigeria to have a robust non-oil export strategy was discussed, while the zero-oil plan which was conceived as a response to the recession in 2016 had some laudable goals for non-oil export, implementation of the plan was below par due to little input from exporters in the conception and design of the plan, among other factors.
They insisted that in developing the new export strategy, stakeholders must be consulted and carried along all through the process to ensure ownership and accountability during implementation.
“Compliance with relevant standards and certification is a key factor that influences the acceptability of Nigeria’s non-oil export and its competitiveness.” Exporters were urged to pay more attention to meeting the specification of the buyers/importing countries as this is fundamental to reducing rejects of Nigerian goods in other countries.
Participants highlighted the challenge of lack of synergy among government ministries, departments and agencies involved in exports.
Noting that some heads of government agencies serve as a roadblock to exporters, participants called for MDAs to work together to support non-oil exports and exporters. To that effect, a cabinet committee supervised by the president or the vice president was proposed to synchronise independent organisational policies and programs.
Federal and state governments were urged to intensify the development of infrastructure such as port access roads, border access roads, dry ports, seaports, railway, as the provision of quality infrastructure has a direct impact on the competitiveness of non-oil export in Nigeria.
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