Members of the Organised Private Sector, on Monday, intensified calls for the formulation of policies to articulate a definite roadmap for non-oil export and non-traditional tradable goods and services.
They posited that the panacea for employment generation, foreign exchange earnings, and investments in non-oil exports, particularly in the agricultural sector, must be backed by relevant laws and regulations.
Speaking at the second edition of the Nigeria Employers Summit themed, “Trade and non-oil export: Changing the narrative for rapid national development” in Abuja, the OPS explained that with the current fiscal challenges, the government needs to diversify her revenue base to increase economic growth so that trade and non-oil exports will boost her foreign exchange reserves.
The Director General of the African Development Bank’s Nigeria Country Department, Lamin Barrow, stated that Nigeria’s exports of goods and services as a percentage of GDP, at 10.7 per cent, is the lowest among its middle-income peers in Africa, compared to 31.2 per cent for South Africa, 44 per cent for Mauritius, 44.6 per cent for Botswana while Tunisia and Angola stood at 42.1 per cent and 44.3 per cent respectively.
He noted that while Nigeria’s economy is one of the most diversified in Africa, the oil sector accounts for 75% of export revenues and 50% of all government revenue, stressing that, “The limited non-oil exports have left the country exposed to the vagaries of global oil markets with attendant adverse impacts on the fiscal space and constraining development spending.”
Barrow added that the performance of the sector has deteriorated in the past five years with a GDP contribution of seven per cent.
But in his welcome address, the Director General of, the National Employers Consultative Association, Adewale Oyerinde, noted that NECA and its partners are aiming at expanding the employment net in Nigeria by deepening economic activities in the area of non-oil trade export.
According to him, the summit was organised to boost forex and to address declining oil export revenues. He also stated that because of the lack of job opportunities, Nigerians are migrating in large numbers and the overall gain is the creation of job opportunities in the country and its development.
He said, “We put this summit together because we know there is no way to increase forex without investing in the non-oil export. So, this summit offers a unique opportunity for us to expand the employment net but we need policies to support this.
“As the voice of the private sector in Nigeria, it is important to contribute to discussions that have to do with national growth. We have forex issues that are bedeviling the country, affecting our trade balance and ability to support organised businesses. And if they (businesses) can’t produce, the need to expand and generate employment becomes compromised and the value chain of the problem becomes gargantuan.
“The quantum of oil we produce, sell and how much we sell is out of Nigeria’s control, however, we can control our natural resources. We need to massively leverage our agricultural raw materials, export them, and then we can generate more forex.”
Speaking further, the NECA’s DG listed export financing, regulations, and standardization as challenges affecting non-oil export, stating “We have issues with financing exports, except you have a strong will, manufacturing and exporting is not very attractive. There are bottlenecks in regulations and standardisation.”
As a solution, Oyerinde urged the government to refocus its efforts to improve non-oil exports to augment the much-needed forex from trade.
Speaking also at the event, The President of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria, Otunba Francis Meshioye, expressed hope that the summit would launch immediate measures that will shape and disposition and attention to non-oil exports, increasing foreign earnings, spurring investment, creating jobs, and reducing the country’s debt burden.
On his part, the Executive Director, of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Ezra Yakusak, reiterated the government’s commitment to support as that is one of the ways to guarantee the country’s survival.
“If we want to survive as a nation and economically, we need to export. There is no way out of it. Last year, a program called Export for Survival was launched and we are thrilled that by our campaign and our other programs, the non-oil export sector recorded about $4.8bn in trade. We have to imbibe a non-oil export culture to ensure our survival,” he opined.