BusinessDay

Emergency! Expert says only ability to earn forex can save Nigeria’s economy

...PH International Airport terminal records zero export product

Nigeria must intensify efforts to earn foreign exchange or face a big crash in the face of over N1.6 trillion trade deficit. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may not continue to finance the economy for long based on huge trade deficits.

A lawyer and expert in export logistics and CEO of XPT Logistics, Kola Awe, who dropped the bombshell in Port Harcourt advised entrepreneurs to strive to operate in the export value chain and earn some forex to avoid extinction.

Awe spoke at a one-day export workshop for logistics operators and relevant stakeholders at the Port Harcourt International Airport for facilitation on non-oil export.

Export or perish – Awe

Speaking on the need for effective operational logistics at the airport for facilitating non-oil export, Awe pointed to stakeholders the new slogans that depict urgency and emergency such as ‘Export now or die’ or ‘Export for survival’.

He said such slogans indicate the new emergency due to scarcity of dollars and heavy dependency on import. Mentioning what Nigeria must do right away, Awe said: “Nigeria needs more cargo airlines to reduce freight costs and hassles. Monopoly in the business will reduce.

“Efforts must be made to hasten the return of Nigeria Air. They will go with passengers (and some goods) and be sure to come back with goods. It will be viable.” He said the problem with some airports is that they have no cargo for inbound flights to take away. But Nigerian Air would go with passengers (which are what Nigeria has) and be sure of cargo to return with.

He also urged Nigeria to boost export practice and production so as to boost cargo freights by increasing activities in non-oil sector. “Provide pre-requisite warehouses for exporters; introduce e-inspection for exports and install close circuit television (CCTV). Cargo handling companies should upgrade support equipment. Revive small airports for cargo. Do continuous training like is done in South Africa.’

To entrepreneurs, the expert urged them complain less and do more. “Is it the exporter that should get a good product and find out the processes or the regulatory agencies that are waiting for you? Entrepreneurs must resolve where to start from; to first develop a good product and set about finding out the export processes or to press the regulatory agencies to first do what is right,” he said.

Read also: The African Continental Free Trade Agreement – The journey thus far

He said PH has huge export potentials but at the moment, the zone is rating too low in exports. He made it clear that export cannot succeed without robust logistics. “Supply chain is very robust; from production to distribution to export or from production to consumption end; logistics is the key factor. Note that the best product can perish without logistics. The missing gap in export business is logistics.” He was responding to exporters who said they sent products to Togo by road but the arrive broken and rejected with the transporters showing indifference and rudeness.

Awe feared that such calamities may continue to happen except an exporter paid full attention to logistics from start to finish. “You should know what it takes to move goods from point A to B. It’s an entire value chain. Most exporters do not bother about logistics. So, get down and learn it,” he said.

He mentioned firms that can handle export as export companies, export merchants, and informal exporter. He advised exporters to explore the West African market, saying 90 per cent of export at the airport is yet informal.

He gave tips on what to consider when selecting a logistics firm: “Experience and exposure are important. Most freight forwarders only know about import, not export.”

He went on: “For not following the process, it is informal export. It is about moving them to formal export status that is the essence of the export drive by the government.”

He gave the various steps that must be considered and the strategies to achieve them. He revealed why PH exporters go to Lagos. He agreed with the terminal manager who had earlier disclosed that Port Harcourt port is too costly (expensive). He added other factors such as very low frequency of flights. “Most exporters prefer where flights are more frequent so that if their products (especially perishable one) do not fly today, they fly the next day. You consider perishable goods, temperature controlled goods, and dangerous goods.”

He further advised entrepreneurs to press harder saying there is heavy burden and pressure on the naira and on Nigeria’s economic managers. He also gave tips, saying there are 42 micro businesses and nine million in small and medium. They should come together. There are cheap loans for women businesses in all the banks.

No export products in PH Int’l Airport

Both the airport terminal manager, Dennis Akogwu and the Customs Commander, Ibrahim Mohammed, said they have not set their eyes on any product for export at the PH International Airport Terminal.

The Customs commander, who said he was happy to have such workshop said the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is now in place, and they expect a lot of exports. “Export should interest us more because that is where the power is,” he said.

According to him, there are no fees charged for export at the port. “Let other agencies help to achieve free flow of goods out of Nigeria. We want booming trade. Documentation is what Customs would insist on,” he said.

He said other agencies may need fees for processing, but not the Customs.

Okogwu, the terminal manager, who mentioned the available facilities for non-oil export at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, said the facilities were one of the best. “We generate revenue from both aeronautical sources to the ratio of 82 to 18. We have thus increased efforts to boost revenue in non-aeronautical sources,” he said.

He mentioned such efforts as maintaining services and facilities for safe, orderly expeditious and economic operations of air transport; providing adequate conditions for carriage of goods out of the country; providing accommodation and other facilities for the effective handling of passengers and freight.

Others mentioned include encouraging revenue creating facilities like shopping malls, hotels with full capacity for gym, amusement parks, etc. He said Cargo department is created to develop and implement processes to provide infrastructure and facilities that would enhance cargo operations in the airports and thus facilitate trade.

He went on: “PH International Airport has a new cargo terminal which when fully operational will help to facilitate and enhance export of dry and wet cargo. To this effect, civil servants and business men/entrepreneurs are encouraged to start up projects in farm produce such as vegetables, fish, etc. in large quantities for export. FAAN is ready to guarantee smooth passage of goods out of Nigeria to Africa, Asia Europe, USA, etc.

“Lagos is fully automated while the automation process is ongoing for other cargo airports in Nigeria. We are exploring the possibility of a one-stop shop in the cargo terminal in PH pending the take off of the national single window. PH is ready for non-export business. Look into vegetables and sea foods.’

On why fees are higher in PH, it was learnt that the PH International Airport is not yet certified.

Exporters cry out:

The exporters who attended the training admitted that the NEPC has done much and that the ball is now in their court.

They reeled out the obstacles against exporting such as documentation processes. One said documentation strangulates export efforts.

Others said at One Port, there are many agencies to face there. They called for what they termed ‘farm-to-plane export system’.

It was revealed that cargo planes run empty back from PH. They go to Nairobi where they pick large quantities of floor to Europe.

A technical source said; “We only send out oil/gas tools but non-oil goods are zero from Port Harcourt. Even if we talk from now to next 10 years, there will not be non-oil export from PH. Certification is the key problem. If we get the processing and certification right, non-oil products will start moving out.

An exporter, Victoria Ozurumba of Avikar Global Resources Limited who exports all forms of African food said certification from the National Agency for Food & Drug Administration (NAFDAC) is a big issue.

He said she is required to cough out almost N2m for registration of her many products, but appealed to the agency to consider staggering the payment for SMEs and She-Trade businesses after certification would have been done. “They can give us temporary certificate and we do business and pay gradually and eventually collect the final certificate. We cannot run.”

Lesson from war in Ukraine: Self-reliance is only way out – NEPC

The zonal coordinator of NEPC, Joe Itah, who represented the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ezra Yakusak PhD, made it clear that self-sufficiency is the only way for Nigeria.

He said: “NEPC has been working hard to promote non-oil export in recent times because there urgent need to move to non-oil export and close the gaps. The war in Ukraine is here with inflation due to disruptions in trade. The only way out is to strive for self-sufficiency.

“We are here to liaise with those who make exporting easy. Why airport? This is to interact with the export facilities needed in the export business and to hear export stories from the exporters. This brings together the exporters and those who handle the export goods.

“In setting the tone and pace for this all day workshop, let us look at what other countries do better but not to look up on others but on ourselves. That is what is important.”

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