West Africa: Nigeria to Leverage Ecowas Network to Boost Trade Volume

Following the official launch of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Trade Promotion Organisations (TPO) Network last Friday, towards increasing the volume of trade within the region, Nigeria is poised to boost its non-oil exports leveraging the platform.

The Executive director / chief executive officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Segun Awolowo, who is also the inaugural president of the ECOWAS TPOs and the NEPC, is now repositioning the nation's export through the implementation of its N50 billion Export Expansion Facility Programme (EEFP), a part of the economic sustainability plan which development and implementation is being led by the Vice President.

The export expansion facility programme (EEFP) is expected to significantly raise the volume of non-oil exports in Nigeria, and it's a spin-off of the zero oil plan developed by Mr. Awolowo and approved by the president.

Besides providing financial support for the average Nigerian exporter, the EEFP is also going to see the establishment of top-notch warehouses in the country close to airports where Nigerian goods meant for export would be packaged to global competitive standards ahead of their exportation.

The EEFP, in line with the federal government's Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), is focused on cushioning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on non-oil export businesses, thereby safeguarding jobs and creating new ones.

Earlier in March this year, the minister of industry, trade and investment (MITI), Otunba Niyi Adebayo, officially flagged off the EEFP and also launched the first online grant management portal (GMP) for non-oil exports. While the EEFP is being implemented by the NEPC, the federal ministry of industry, trade & investment is the supervisory body over the agency and its operations.

It was disclosed that although the programme anticipated 500 beneficiaries, since the launch, it has received over 3,500 applications for the grant, out of which over 2,000 were verified after meeting the eligibility criteria.

Federal government officials said further details and plans on disbursement to final successful beneficiaries are being awaited.

Aside from being an intervention to save and create jobs, Adebayo noted that the programme "will support resilience in shoring up foreign exchange, diversification, modernisation of Nigeria's economy and acceleration of economic growth and economic support."

Under the export expansion facility, there are 16 programmes as approved in the implementation work plan under seven Workstreams namely - capacity building, emergency interventions, export aggregation, export inclusion, export trade facilitation, institutional strengthening and market development.

For instance, the emergency intervention is to support existing exporters in responding to shocks caused by COVID-19, while market development involves penetrating identified export markets, value chain analysis for priority products, leveraging Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and other trade treaties.

Considering the significant role it plays in growing the Nigerian economy, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the target group of support from the EEFP and the export development fund (EDF).

At the launch of the TPO Network, vice president Yemi Osinbajo stated that there was need to expand intra-regional trade in the ECOWAS sub-region, with the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

In the same vein, Awolowo further stated that the network will work towards facilitating the ease of trade for MSMEs within the ECOWAS region and Africa in general.

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