Nigeria can unlock non-oil export opportunities, say Ovia, Dangote, others
Stakeholders, including Jim Ovia, founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc; Aliko Dangote, chairman of Dangote Industries Limited, and Godwin Emefiele, governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, have said Nigeria can unlock opportunities in the non-oil sector to boost exports.
They said this on Wednesday at the 7th edition of the Zenith Bank’s International Trade Seminar on non-oil export.
Ovia called for a concerted effort towards diversifying Nigeria’s export base through the promotion of non-oil exports.
Highlighting the importance of non-oil export to the nation’s economy, Ovia pointed out that Nigeria exported cocoa and several other non-oil products for years before oil was discovered.
He cited the example of the 25-storey Cocoa House in Ibadan, which was built with proceeds from cocoa exports.
He pointed out that many countries in the world, such as Japan and China been successful because they are doing a great deal of innovation, production and manufacturing of goods and services.
He said: “We should also look at promoting the nation’s non-oil export sector through technology to create technological giants like Apple, Tesla, and Google. And we already have technology companies in this mould in Nigeria, such as Flutterwave, which has a valuation of $3 billion, making it more valuable than some banks in Nigeria.”
Ovia highlighted the phenomenal growth of Nigeria’s emerging financial technology companies such as Flutherwave, OPay, Interswitch, Kuda and Paystack, with market valuations of $3 billion, $2 billion, $1 billion, $500 million, $200 million, respectively.
Dangote, in his keynote speech, highlighted import substitution and export-oriented industries as the two main routes through which export opportunities abound in Nigeria.
According to him, the import substitution strategy is ideal for economies like Nigeria, which has a large domestic market and a huge import bill,
“Investors can build industries which initially target the domestic market, then subsequently target export markets as they build scale and competitiveness,” he said.
Dangote said Nigeria had in a little over a decade successfully achieved import substitution in the cement industry, with the Dangote Group playing a pivotal role.
Emefiele, in his goodwill message, commended Zenith Bank and its leadership led by Jim Ovia, the founder and chairman of the board, for its laudable initiative in organising an annual export seminar to explore opportunities in Nigeria’s non-oil export with a view to increasing the nation’s non-oil export base and ultimately increasing its share as a percentage of total export.
He said: “This is why the theme of this year’s seminar, ‘Unlocking opportunities in Nigeria’s non-oil export business’, is timely and appropriate. This is because the global economy and structure are changing rapidly before our eyes.
“The previous world economic order underpinned by globalisation and seamless trade possibilities seems to be suffering major disruptions lately. We believe Nigeria has a lot of potential, and we can harness this for the good of our people and country.”
He said 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.
According to Dangote, important initiatives needed to unlock these opportunities include improving the availability of competitively priced domestic gas to unlock petrochemicals opportunities, import substitution to unlock agriculture opportunities, partnering with credible international mining companies to unlock solid minerals opportunities, and improving the competitiveness of Nigerian ports and supporting investors to provide enabling environment for exporters.
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Speaking on the opportunity in unlocking petrochemicals exports, Dangote explained that petrochemical demand grows with the economy and population and that Nigeria can target a minimum of 3 percent share of the market in line with its 3 percent share of global gas reserves.
“This will translate to $25 billion foreign exchange earnings by 2028, and will require the construction of 15 to 20 million tons of production capacity which requires a lot of gas,” he added.
On the opportunities of unlocking agricultural import substitution/ exports, Dangote said there is a $6 billion import substitution opportunity for Nigeria.
For this to be achieved, he said state governments should facilitate unencumbered access to land for commercial agriculture, abolish taxes for primary agriculture production for domestic consumption, fix irrigation infrastructure and incentivise private sector investment in irrigation infrastructure, and the central bank to continue its support for the agriculture sector.
Dangote urged the port authorities to reduce port charges by 50 percent to promote export competitiveness, and terminal operators to also charge reasonable rates.
Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, enumerated the progress and achievements of the AfCFTA and the efforts to improve intra-Africa trade.
Also, in his goodwill message, Benedict Oramah, president/chairman of African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), highlighted the efforts of Afreximbank to enhance intra-Africa trade through the implementation of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System.
According to him, the Pan-African payment and settlement system will make it easy and seamless for Africans to trade amongst themselves and receive payment for goods and services in their local currencies, eliminating currency conversion challenges.