This is the concern of AFRICA Sustainable SME Export Trade Solutions (ASSETS) and Bellafricana, who put together a workshop Wednesday June 29, at FOUR POINTS BY SHERATON, Victoria Island, Lagos. The following is a preamble to the main report which will come your way in the coming week
By Siaka MOMOH
Shade Bembatoun-Young, the CEO of ASSETS has become synonymous with promotion of non-oil and non-traditional export and more. For 26 years to date, she has gained recognition as a strong advocate of non-oil and traditional export, intra-ECOWAS trade, and fighting poverty in Africa by creating sustainable livelihoods for African women and men through the development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Exports. This time around, she is doing what she knows how to do best in partnership with Bellafricana, a company that is into promoting the beauty of Africa.
Folashade Aluko, representing Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM), (money plays a very important part in business transaction, most especially since NEXIM – a development finance institution – comes with lower interest rate which the commercial banks cannot offer) told participants at the workshop that NEXIM complements the efforts of the Bank of Industry, “but the funding done by NEXIM must be for export”. The bank funds insurance too.
“We offer one, five years facilities and serve ECOWAS, Asia, and Africa… We fund manufacturing, agribusiness, solid minerals, services, transport, tourism and entertainment,” she said.
The bank also does direct lending, offer risk-bearing services and takes up to 80 per cent of project cost, Aluko said.
She said the Nigerian creative industry is a big employer of labour employing over two million hands and the Nigerian Nollywood is highly prolific, and that it is world number three.
She told participants that the new CBN/NEXIM Funding Scheme has two components. The first is the Revised Export Rediscount and Refinancing Facility which has been enhanced. This is N50 billion. It has a single digit rediscount rate, it is a short term facility – up to one year tenor. The second component is the N500 billion Non-oil Export Stimulation Fund which has a single digit interest rate and it is a medium/long term fund – with up to 10 years tenure.
And coming from Shade Bembatoun-Young is that “production development is more important than market development” –she asked SMEs present to note this and other important points she reeled out. Reeled out, yes. What else do you expect from someone who has spent close to three decades advocating for the best for non-oil and non-traditional export. Hear her telling the small enterprises heads present: “Be competitive locally before going global; if you don’t, you will regret it; you must do SWOT test – how many of you have ever done this?; what’s your company’s greatest strength?; where do you want to place yourself – in raw material supplies, semi-finished products, finished products in bulk, packaging, exporter, export marketer?; No rushing; different markets requires different specifications.
“You can export expertise too”, she advised and the list she offered include expertise, IT, telecoms, transport, financial, legal, marketing, and advertising. And for creative industry she listed film, music, arts and crafts, textile and fashion designing.
And Shade explained: “Our adire is dying out. This shouldn’t be. We should revive it. The finishing for our garments is poor – we don’t have a garment industry. Product development and adaptation for export is very vital. What adjustments do we need to make to be product export ready? Which market do you have competitive advantage? Note the importance of identifying niche markets for SMEs. U.S. for instance is not one market.
“For luxury bags, we have them. We are making things happen. But ignorance can ruin business overnight – ignorance of standards required. We must be proactive – we must think out of the box, we must throw away the box. Join and create national networks – chambers of commerce, Interface, African Cotton Textiles Stakeholders.
Then she spoke about coopetition – a rare strategy that several in the hall were hearing of for the first time (me too, I won’t lie). Coo petition is the act of cooperation between competing companies; businesses that engage in both competition and cooperation are said to be in coopetition. Certain businesses gain an advantage by using a judicious mixture of cooperation with suppliers, customers and firms producing complementary or related products. Shade advised this strategy. She advised SMES to focus on the bigger picture “whatever your common challenges”. Coming together, staying together and working solves many problems, she said.
For her, SMEs must participate in trade policies formulation and monitoring implementation; SMEs should start putting French translations on their products if they an enlarged market which comes with export; involve in capacity building; strengthen value chain.