18 November 2012

Nigeria: 'We Want Citizens to Appreciate Alternatives to Oil'


Mr Femi Boyede is technical adviser to the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr Olusegun Aganga. He speaks on how non oil export is promoted through Non-Oil Export Conference, Exhibition and Awards (NNCEA). NNCEA was held from November 4 to 6, 2012 at the Musa Yar-dua Centre in Abuja

How did you come about NNCEA?

The Nigerian Non-Oil Export Conference, Exhibition and Awards is an outcome of a series of Export Round tables (tagged KVL Export Roundtables) sponsored by our company, Koinonia Ventures Limited, to discuss critical issues relevant to the development of Nigeria's non-oil export sector, and the ability of Nigerian exporters and companies to participate more profitably and efficiently in the fiercely competitive international market-place.

Our experience over the years, of our carrying on the seemingly "lone-voice" crusade for the development of the non-oil export industry in Nigeria, demonstrated a yawning gap between the policy makers and the actual players in the industry. This gap was more than critically accentuated in the third of the Round Tables in Kano in 2009, hence the decision of our company to institute and institutionalise a platform for an annual public-private sector dialogue on the Non-oil Export Sector.

This is the genesis of the Nigerian Non-Oil Export Conference, Exhibition and Awards. In order to give it the true sense of corporate public-private partnership, we decided to register it as a company limited by guarantee which means it is open to stakeholders.

You have been holding conferences outside Nigeria in the last 12 years, to sensitize investors on the global front on the need to invest in Nigeria. How different is NNCEA?

We do not want to separate the concept from previous attempts. It is part of a whole advocacy picture. For the past 20 years all we have done is to advocate for the development and proper organization of this critical sector of the Nigeria economy. We have come up with different tools to achieve the same objective which is to make the non-oil export to be as virile as the oil sector.

We continue to believe that at some point oil will dry up. We can now see that other economies are developing alternatives to oil. Suddenly renewable energy and green revolution have taken over the entire world. People are discovering synthetic power sources. At some point oil may not attract the kind of attention it is presently getting. Oil cannot be depended upon given the fact that there are hostile communities that are making exploration difficult.

The objective is to make sure that the average Nigerian appreciates that there is an alternative to oil and therefore curb the nation's mono-product dependence on it.

This third edition of NNCEA attracted participants from Argentina, Spain, Cameroun and Senegal.

Why did you stop holding the conferences in foreign countries?

The idea of holding conferences outside the country was a concept that was acclaimed globally but it was a colossal financial burden on us because we did not have the kind of sponsorship and financial support we needed.

The Nigeria Minerals Event in London, for example, cost the company about N16 million loss in year 2000. It took us about four years to repay that loan. We then took the idea to France and had NIMEX two times.

We got certain facilities free of charge and it was relatively better. By the time we did another one in Paris we found out that it is only in our own case that an individual is doing what government is supposed to be doing. We had to sit back and appraise what we were doing. We then decided to make a move and get government involved in the project. We had to repackage.

Do you have a special interest in a particular non-oil area of the economy?

The idea is to sectorize. Nigeria is a bunch of resources. All the areas of our life: the services sector, the agriculture and all the other sectors are gold mines. It is a matter of sectorising and addressing the issues that affect our competitiveness in the international market. May be I'm too street-wise about it but it is having a lay man's approach that works.

If I wanted for example to capture the market of West Africa practically I will plant export trading houses. That is why I'm still a strong advocate of the export trading houses. It is the concept that Europe used to colonise Africa economically. It is the distribution platform for Nigerian products.

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