Fidelity Bank mulls non-oil exports for inclusive economic growth

Nnamdi Okonkwo, Managing Director, Fidelity Bank

Fidelity Bank on Tuesday said it foresaw an imminent growth in non-oil export as more Nigerians, governments begin to wake up to the huge prospects inherent in the Agricultural and Small Medium Enterprise (SMEs) sectors.

Nnamdi Okonkwo, managing director of the bank, who made this remark at a one-day workshop/training on exports organised by Koinonia Ventures Limited in conjunction with the bank, expressed high optimism that these sectors, if properly positioned could play significant roles in diversifying Nigeria’s monolithic economy.

Mr. Okonkwo however pointed out that no other time is the subject of import and export substitution more important than now when the country is grappling with a revenue crisis precipitated by the steep decline in crude oil prices and widespread corruption.

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has predicted that Nigeria’s non-oil sector will generate about $100 billion in export earnings in the next 12 years.

To assist export-oriented MSMEs raise their level of competitiveness in the global market, Mr. Okonkwo said the bank had raised N30 billion in corporate bonds on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

He said the capital raising exercise is expected to enable the bank fulfil its promise to increase MSME lending to 50 percent by 2017, further adding that the bank has earmarked 80 percent of the net proceed of the bond to finance MSMEs which have been peddled as the next cash cow.

Mr. Okonkwo, who was represented by Chijioke Ugochukwu, the bank’s executive director, Shared Services & Products, said the lender’s renewed focus on MSMEs was driven by its growing role in the transformation of economies.

Speaking on ‘Turning Adversity to Prosperity: A Case for a Radical Repositioning of Nigeria’s Non-Oil Export Sector’, Olufemi Boyede, MD/CEO, Koinonia Ventures noted that the Nigerian economy can only make progress if local entrepreneurs become export-ready.

Commenting on the country’s competitive advantage, particularly as it relates to export trade, Mr. Boyede said Nigeria currently has over 5, 000 exportable products, explaining that about 21 of such products can be quickly harnessed for the benefit of the nation’s economy.

Alluding to the enormous successes of Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI), the Koinonia boss urged the federal government to create the much needed environment for Nigerian exporters to thrive.

“The Barack Obama Administration has made it a top priority to improve the conditions that directly affect the private sector’s ability to export,” he said.

According to him, the Nigerian government must ensure that trade barrier abroad are completely removed, stating that government at all levels must channel their energies towards helping firms of all sizes and farmers overcome hurdles of financing and access to new markets.

Mr. Boyede applauded the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the nation’s apex financial institution for establishing a N550 billion intervention fund aimed at upscaling Nigeria’s export performance, urging Fidelity Bank Plc to help exporters take advantage of the facility.

In her keynote address at the training programme, Aisha Abubakar, minister of state, Industry Trade & Investment, said government is more than ever dogged in its quest to revive agriculture as an alternative to crude oil through better reforms, value chain/addition and discouragement of export of raw materials.

“There are a sizeable number of agricultural commodities grown in Nigeria that are quoted in the international commodities market and these include cocoa, palm oil, groundnut, Sesame seed, Shea Nuts, cotton and even fish,” Ms. Abubakar said.

She noted that the fundamental drawback to the growth of export is standardization, explaining that Nigerian exporters are struggling to meet the quality requirements of their trading partners.

“Exporters must go further to add value to produce, package properly and then they will attract higher prices”, he added.

The workshop, which had as its theme, ‘Key Trends & Opportunities in the Non-Oil Export Sector’ brought together subject matter experts, government agencies as well as private sector players in export business, to share knowledge and insights on the key trends and opportunities in the non-oil export sector.

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