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Bonny Chamber of Commerce unveils strategies to help businesses play big, go global

…As BOCCIMA mobilises women entrepreneurs to trade with US firms

The Bonny Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (BOCCIMA), which seemed to go silent since middle of 2019 after its reactivation drives, stepped out big on the island last weekend with strategic plans or dockets aimed to helping companies and businesses in Bonny fly into new gears and hit global standards. This they said is because many top original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) especially from the US are lined up to do business with Bonny entrepreneurs as the $10billion NLNG Train-7 rushes on.

BOCCIMA has thus begun mobilisation of business women in Bonny to join in the new move expected to move the rich island along the Dubai dream lines and international business models.

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The Director-General of BOCCIMA, Constance Nwokejiobi, who briefed the Bonny business women, showed various programmes that would soon be activated. According to her, after mobilising both men and women entrepreneurs in Bonny, they would be moved into opportunity zones or groups such as Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry; Education, Printing & Publishing; Professional Practice, and Financial Services; Medical, Pharmaceutical & Allied; Real Estate; and Automobile & Allied Products.

Others would be Construction, Civil & Engineering Works; Hotel, Tourism and Entertainment; Manufacturing & Industry; Information Communications Technology; Oil & Gas, and BOCCIMA Women in Business.

The DG said BOCCIMA will work for a viable economic growth, but said innovation is the great way to success in this digital age. “The technology which has already proved itself in the last two decades is of course the information technology (IT). The Chamber of commerce has positioned itself to act as the Business hub of Bonny Kingdom. Nigeria is at a critical juncture in our life as a nation, and she must sail or sink as smart business decision has dramatically changed the global practice.”

She said BOCCIMA will work through advocacy, digital marketing, networking opportunities, mediation and conciliation, international business activities, trade missions and trade events. “Others will be access to directories, trade journals and periodicals across the world available to members.

She mentioned environmental protection; ethical code of conduct and best practices; etc. She added that the chamber creates awards to best companies; capacity development: (mentoring skill program, dual vocational programme, developing the capacity of SMEs; partnerships & collaboration.

To help Bonny business connect with global partners, the BOCCIMA has so far ensured strategic stakeholders engagements (called BOCCIMA Go-Life) as well as buy-in of strategic stakeholders around the world. She said the team shared BOCCIMA five-year business plan, proposal on Kingdom urban planning development initiative, etc.

She mentioned missions to Brazil, Japan, USA, etc, on several programmes including ICT, Tourist Boat, BOCCIMA Investments -Bonny Atlantic Resort & Conference center projects, etc. She also hinted of a business hub concept which seemed to thrill the full-capacity audience.

Some success factors she mentioned include advocacy, membership, economic growth, communication, and leadership, with focus areas such as efficient support systems developed from the Bonny Kingdom master plan.

This led to hints of what Bonny Kingdom could be like in 2040. “With its exponential population projection, the kingdom must address its challenges while harnessing its opportunities. To achieve this, the strategic focus will be on 12 priorities under 4 development pillars, human capital development, economic expansion & diversification, infrastructure development, and environmental sustainability”.

Bonny entrepreneurs to operate international standards

BOCCIMA brought in experts who trained the women on how to operate at global level because it is now a global village. The women were told that the US has commercial service sections in all consulates to help manage the business relationships and reduce risks of fraud and disappointments. They showed various organs and steps structured to achieve this.

One of the resource persons showed the women how to structure their businesses in alignment with global and US requirements. “You must have financial structure. The foreign company does not know you. It is through your business that they want to look at you. So, endeavour to keep your books”, they advised.

The women were made to know that the commercial officers of embassies do market research for foreign companies. Foreign companies will not come in directly, except through local partnerships. “So, position yourself.  We send lists and some other times, we recommend about five local companies for the company abroad looking for partnership or agents down here to pick.”

For the US in particular, it was stated that some of the products used in relating with Nigerian business people include: “International Partner Search (IPS); we help them search for partners in Nigeria. Gold Key Matchmaking Service (GKMS); we help them to get companies to match their business needs. Simple Company Promotion (SCP): We do simple promos for them. International Buyer Programme (IBP); we help get market for their products and advise them on how to behave in the local market”.

It was revealed that many foreign companies are keen to enter the Nigerian market because of its population and the market it offers. Nigeria’s unique problems sometimes also create solutions that many foreign firms want to exploit. The experts advised Bonny women and other SMEs to know that training is very important. Some commercial officers in embassies do advise companies back home to know that Nigerians crave for training on any equipment they are importing. Thus, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) must include training and parts in the deals. “So, prepare your company to benefit from the trainings for your workers. You could also be training others.”

Many women asked questions and it was made clear that it is not true that US companies are not willing to come to Nigeria. Over 33 companies are coming to the exhibition in Lagos. The issue has been on reputation and business climate in Nigeria. They also explained that travel ban imposed by the present president is not for business trips but residence visa.

Parable of the ‘Woman on the Yellow Wallpaper’

The period being around the International Women’s Day (IWD), the BOCCIMA used the opportunity to mobilize the women entrepreneurs along economic emancipation, equality goals, and empowerment.

To sensitise the women through feminist literature, a case study was made of a touching story called ‘Woman on a Yellow Wallpaper’. It was a story of Kaka and Modi. Kaka was a prosperous young medic who was the apple of every female eye while Modi was a naïve but very beautiful young girl. He married her but ended up imprisoning her in the name of protection, an action that seemed to reduce Modi to ruins and reduce her humanity and value in life.

All these years, she gazed at the women in the artwork being the yellow wallpaper who seemed equally imprisoned. At frustration point, Modi tore off the wallpaper. Suddenly, she felt relief and seemed to rediscover herself, became a teacher, made impact in the community, and found fulfilment in her destiny.

Dabota Godswill Jumbo, the moderator, shared the women in five groups and allowed them to search for the hidden meanings in the narrative. The women fought the challenge with the zeal of an audience angry with the plight of oppressed humans and went straight to the interpretations.

They talked about the ides of isolating and restricting a women; wondering if it was protection or suppression. Dabota wanted them to deduce; is the husband, Kaka, intimidating the wife, Modi? She suffered isolation and frustration and depression over the years; she eventually tore the wallpaper and soon broke free.

Some analysed that she was treated with the concept of wife as a trophy; the husband wanted to preserve the trophy and thus isolated her which is a form of abuse. Some pointed that a woman will suffer until she breaks lose by herself or by others.

Another dimension emerged. Do some women play the victim instead of finding ways to sell their proposition to the husband? A lady said she is Calabar and that she knew what to do to get what was right and good for her. A woman needs to break barriers and succeed.

A female professor brought in the colour differentiation logic. Yellow means many bright things, but it also shows cowardice of a man; a deceitful man; an insecure man. The woman should work on him and help him.

Dabota Jumbo pointed at the bottom line: liberate yourself, beak free in love, help your man, realize your ambition; let women help to liberate others just the way Modi tore the paper holding down the one on the wall paper.

Lawrence Jumbo; BOCCIMA president

An elder who is the president of BOCCIMA as well as the chairman of board, Lawrence Jumbo, said BOCCIMA has come to stay but that they need support to make it go global. Saying women were the sustaining force in life, he observed that most men credit their successes to either their wives or mothers. “Women can change Nigeria. We expect wives to advise their husbands against evil raging in the society today.”

He pointed to drugs addiction, terrorism, etc, which all started from homes and urged women to act, now.

Dabota Godswill Jombo: woman leader

Dabota is a community stakeholder in Bonny who is also into business, politics, and community development.

She said: “I have strong passion for women development, to build capacity for women. So, things like this, I will normally do a lot of nomination for women to come here. By what was done today, you will see that a lot of women have been liberated. It is sisters helping sisters. They would have thought of ways to come out of whatever they were in bond of, be it emotional or financial.

“I picked up a lot from this story and the entire event today especially in the responses that I got back. It was a case study, so, no wrong or right answer. It’s all about perspectives. I have learnt that your dreams might be delayed but it is important to work positively towards achieving your dreams. Again, we live a life of impacts. Modi actualised her dreams and became a source of joy to her community. That thought me a lot of lessons. I have been into projects and NGO work and I have a viable hands-on skills acquisition centre where I train the less-privileged and young widows in fashion designing to empower them to be self-sustaining. They are assisted with seed capital. It’s been a success story.

“Women should live out their dreams and have strategic ways of solving their problems and overcoming their challenges. Like I wrapped up by saying that it may take a woman to stand up for another woman. So, let’s stop the pull-her-down syndrome.

“A word about BOCCIMA: I met an exciting DG for the first time yesterday, and I was so impressed and I shared my concerns about the community especially raising women entrepreneurs taking advantage of the round the clock power supply here. Bonny is one community with such, but what are we doing with that energy. We have vast ocean reserves, so, what are we doing about high sea trawling businesses, fishing businesses, etc.

“My dream is to have many women that will be string entrepreneurs into value added services and products. It is time for us to diversify the economy in Bonny, not everything centred around the NLNG. When they stopped building the trains, economic life stopped and people migrated. It is time we think of industrialisation.

“My first question is; I hope the trade free zone suggestion will accommodate industrial park for us where we can build SMEs and real industries that will create jobs for the teeming youths and then have our people drive this local economy. That is critical.

“Constance (the DG) is doing well; she has her eye on the ball. She is very strategic. We spoke, and incidentally we have a lot in common. She used to be a banker and I used to be in the same bank. We are products of same background, brought up to be the best in anything we do. She will go places and honestly I will be here to support her.”

Irene Pepple; lawyer

I am a lawyer and am in private practice. I was invited here today under a platform. The programme was a great one. The idea is for us all to embrace the possibilities that they have. We also find out ways we can engage the US companies and different ways to trade. It was a whole lot. I think the most significant thing that coincided with the IWD 2020 and the take home was that a woman can be all that she was meant to be; a home maker, a mother, but she can still fulfill purpose and touch other lives.

“It’s high time women moved from being selfish and get out of the wall and bring out their best and bring smiles to others. I believe women have a lot within them and can do much more. They should move away from our self-inflicted position of thinking somebody is keeping us somewhere. You can become all you want to be.

“This kind of interaction should continue in Bonny. I think the Bonny woman can actually become a successful business woman based on what the BOCCIMA is doing. I believe in interaction and that is where the world is going now. You need mentoring that can help your business to improve the society and the home. It is a win-win. Everybody gains from this kind of interaction and I am looking forward to much more. I know that the Island will be better for it.”

Ignatius Chukwu

 

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