For three years, Jumai Oluyede, Lotanna Egwuatu, Emily Achor and Uzonna Ike, have made efforts to promote gemstones and jewelleries produced in Nigeria across the globe.
The efforts have made been through the annual African Gems and Jewellery Exhibition and Seminar (AGJES), which has been in existence since 2017, in partnership with various agencies.
According to research, the global gemstone and jewellery industry is currently worth about US$ 300 billion and is projected to cross the US$ 443 billion mark by 2023, a healthy growth of over 4.73 per cent per annum.
The huge market has as its global leader, India, with a market share of about US$ 60 billion as recorded in 2017 and is expected to reach $100-110 billion by 2021-2022.
It contributes around seven per cent of the country’s GDP, employing over 4.64 million workers which is estimated to rise by 2022.
A promoter of gemstone and jewelleries, Lotanna Egwuatu, said the industry is not developed yet in Nigeria, which makes it difficult for those in the sector.
She said Nigeria lacks basic standards for jewellery export and this reduces the value globally. Ms Egwuatu advised that people who want to join the business should have adequate knowledge of the value chain.
“For people who want to do the business, they should acquire knowledge about it before doing it. They should enrol for further studies on gemstones,” she said.
She said Africa has designs that have not been tapped into. “We have history that goes back to thousands of years, in Africa,” she said.
Unfortunately, Nigerian economy does not benefit from the lucrative trade of gemstones. The current contribution of the solid minerals sector to the GDP averages about a paltry 0.3 per cent.
Interestingly, Nigeria contributes about 10 per cent (1.2 billion) of the total revenue generated annually by Thailand from gemstone.
AGJES, in its third edition, intends to expand the boundaries that deals with issues which are focused on developing the sector.
This is to improve the process along the value chain and birth great African brands that can compete globally.
It hopes to repackage the downstream areas for exports to meet international standards and also, to ensure that the Nigerian economy benefits financially from the sector.
‘Bank of Mining Industry’
The president, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Adetokunbo Kayode, said the sector is a new area that is gradually gaining the country’s attention.
He said plans to achieve sustainable development in Nigeria will help the country lead in the mining industry, adding that acquiring medium and high skills for artisanal miners will help improve the sector.
“Skill development has not done well in dealing with issues in the sector. This must be taken seriously by the ministry of mines and steel development,” he said.
Mr Kayode advised setting up a bank for the mining industry, which will be managed by the Bank of Industry (BOI). He said a framework for the liberal funding should be set up.
Also, the former president, Miners Association of Nigeria, Sani Shehu, said funds for operation must be accessible to local miners. “For two years, no operator has been able to access funds.”
He said the funds should make an impact in the industry and a committee should be set up to help account for the funds.
Mr Shehu advised the government to take its responsibility of developing the sector, as there is need to rebrand the image of the sector.
“The sector needs the human factor, which is another challenge.”
A professor of Geology, Okunlola Akindeji, identified four fundamental issues that the sector has been battling with, highlighting that the government does not keep record of the sector.
“Data, industry participants, experts, institution and governance, these are the fundamental issues,” he said.
He said without data, no plans can be made in the sector.
Although a road map was set up using data from other African countries, he said “The roadmap should not be in anyway truncated because mining is a marathon.
“If institutions are weak, then the government will be weak. Once we have weak governance, there is nothing to speak about,” he said.