Now is the time to aggressively explore exportation rather than imports, this is the message Nigerians have been told at a one-day workshop in Port Harcourt by the Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC), south-south zone.
The workshop to train exporters from the south-south and business owners on bankable business plan writing was used as an avenue to alert Nigerians about the deteriorating economic conditions and scarcity of foreign exchange. Eniola Yemi Temidayo, an export operations expert from the Department of Management, University of Port Harcourt (Entrepreneurship & Management courses) and an Innovation and Enterprise consultant who was the former coordinator of the Uniport Business School, said the best option for Nigerians is to go into massive export.
Temidayo represented Ofon Udofia, the executive secretary of the Institute of Export Operations and Management (IEOM) to deliver the training.
“This is the time to export. Bring in forex because importers are suffering. It is time to try ‘E’ for ‘I’ (or Export for Import scheme),” he said.
He named cassava and plantain as two of the prominent products where the South-South has huge comparative advantage and must add value in them through processing. He said the discovery came through researches by students in universities in the region.
He however urged the people to also engage in spices and other products from other parts of Nigeria including tiger nuts, zobo (hibiscus flower), ginger.
The university lecturer and export consultant said web sales as one of the many types of sales open to business owners and exporters is very important. He pointed also highlighted customer relations, saying “You must give your foreign customers quality attention”.
On the processing aspect of 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 noted 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.”
Joe Itah, south-south zonal coordinator of NEPC, while highlighting the rationale for hosting a workshop on business plan, said it while it may sound simple, 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.
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.
Some of the participants especially those from the Port Harcourt Exporters Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited led by Michael Bawa commended the NEPC in the south-south but appealed to the FG to find solution to finance problems for beginners ready and trained enough to begin exports but lack the huge funds needed.
Some of them said banks hardly approved loans despite good business plans.