The lull in export activities in the south-south has been traced largely to low access to funds from financial institutions due to poor knowledge of bankable business plan development and presentation.
Other authorities have however blamed the lack of knowledge to disinterest in non-export activities and huge entitlement mentality in the South-South.
The Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC) in the zone has however moved to close the financing gaps by mobilizing and training exporters and business owners in the region to achieve proficiency in ‘bankable business proposals’ writing.
NEPC also promised to bring financial institutions in the financial value-chain such as NEXIM, Bank of Industry (BoI), Development Bank of Nigeria, NIRSAL, and all those who have one facility or the other to offer to exporters to explain the opportunities and windows available for exporters.
NEPC brought Ofon Udofia, executive secretary of the Institute of Export Operations and Management (IEOM), who was represented by Eniola Yemi Temidayo (PhD), one of the most foremost export experts, accounting guru, university lecturer and sought-after consultant on business plan development, to drill the participants.
Temidayo is of the Department of Management, University of Port Harcourt and a lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Management courses; an Innovation and Enterprise consultant, former coordinator of the Uniport Business School.
Explaining the strategic reason for the specialized training, Itah told BusinessDay that a business plan may sound simple but that it has a lot of intricacies. “The NEPC deemed it necessary to bring this workshop to the exporters and take them through all that they need to develop and send a proposal that could afford them to get required attention.”
On whether NEPC has accredited business plan writers, Itah said the mandate of the Council is mostly advisory because they knew what it takes to be export-ready. “A bank or financial institution that wants to give a loan would want to know the applicant’s level of development in export and how much you know about market development, product development, trade information, knowledge of standards, costing, pricing, packaging, and the other matters. These should be imbedded in the business plan that an exporter writes for it to pass through scrutiny. So we bring experts to help out.”
He said NEPC would not be the one to point to anybody but that they could advise on how it should be prepared: simple, clear and be a good content proposal that will scale through.
Reacting to complaints by business owners at the workshop that no matter the beauty of business plans, that banks hardly looked at them twice let alone grant loans, Itah said a lot of the exporters do not even have an export plan. “So, there is an issue around writing bank project or an export plan that would see the light of day. So, taking them through this rudiment means that they have to own a plan. They are the ones that own the businesses. NEPC is only guiding them.”
He pointed out that the roadmap towards achieving success is in their business plan. “If they do not have such a plan, they would probably not know where they are going to. So, from here going forward, NEPC is ready to bring all the relevant stakeholders in the financial value chain: NEXIM, Bank of Industry (BoI), Development Bank of Nigeria, NIRSAL, and all those who have one facility or the other to offer to exporters. Often, business owners do not understand that government is not a Father Christmas. You must qualify to have the loan you request, and to qualify, you have to meet up with the requirements. Some of these requirements could be simple but if you don’t understand it, then there is no way you can get them.
“What the NEPC does is to bring both the exporters (business owners) and the financial institutions so they can hear directly from each other.”
He however said bank should be a businessman’s last point of call for business finance. “Do your homework. Look for other sources. Try cooperative system or crowd funding.
“NIRSAL funds are hardly in the South-South and East because of lack of bankable business plans. People from the region should start trying things.”
Giving tips on how to develop a bankable business plan, Temidayo said the CEOs should first develop sound business models that would help to frame the writing of a business plan.
The university lecturer and versatile export consultant said web sales is one of the many types of sales open to business owners and exporters is very important. He pointed also at customer relations and said: “You must give your foreign customers quality attention”.
Read also: CAC partners NEPC to boost non-oil exports
On processing business, he said: “You must be in control of at least 80 per cent of supply, else danger could come knocking one day. You either farm or have affinity with the farmers of your product. Try and farm what you export or try and be in good partnership with farmers.”
He also confirmed that the soiled image of Nigeria is affecting export transactions as most countries are scared of Nigerians. “They thus put extra huddles and checks when dealing with exporters from Nigeria. Australia and Dubai import a lot of food products but their regulations are very strict.”
Temidayo also advised exporters and those aiming to run successful businesses to consider outsourcing some of their operations but ensure the critical ones were kept within their control.
“There is need for partnerships and networking to help business person gain knowledge. Consider cost-driven market versus quality-driven market so you can act accordingly.
“Business secret versus competition: There is need to teach your team every process for the sake of continuity and sustainability. However, some produces fear competition and hide their secrets.”
He harped on intrapreneurship: “This requires you to groom innovative workers within and reward creativity so new things can spring up from your organization
“When people fail, do not over blame them, but call them and discuss the failure so everybody will learn from it and overcome it. It will encourage people to take responsibility and attempt creativity and innovation.’
He a business plan is not always to get a loan but a roadmap to a destination. It shows how you will create value, It is what could attract funding and partnership or even offer for merger and acquisition.
Rather, he said it gives future direction and one’s breakeven point and shows factory profit. The expert said other way to do SWOT analysis could be to aim at production process. “CODS is another tool of analysis: Challenges, Opportunities, Do or Develop them, Strength drawn from them.”
He told Nigerians that this is the time to export. “Bring in forex because importers are suffering. Its time to try ‘E’ for ‘I’ (Export for Import scheme)
“Some products for South-South: Cassava, plantain are good for advantage, but try and add value by processing them. Researches done by students in Uniport and Rivers State University (RSU) have indicated the above and spices from the South-South for export. There are other products from other parts of Nigeria including tiger nuts, zobo (hibiscus flower), ginger.”
Reacting to a question on what happens if banks divert business plans to others, the consultant urged them never to go to court because of possible landmines along the way. He said he has been in court on that type of case since 2017 with the case being mentioned only once in 2019 and that because the judge has retired, the case has to start afresh.
In her message, Esther Ikporah, a deputy director, export development and incentives, agreed with the observation of a lull of export activities in the oil region and joined in promising to bring financial institutions to show what they have in store for the region. She however urged the people of the area to show equal enthusiasm as seen in the north and south-west.