Monday, October 15, 2012

Nigerian Non-Oil Exports Conference, Exhibition And Awards

When the idea of NNECEA was conceived in 2009 following the successes recorded with the KVL Export Roundtables, the plan then was to establish an annual forum, where issues relating to Nigeria’s Non-Oil Exports would be identified and discussed with a view to finding acceptable solutions. Thus, the first edition, which took place at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, on October 25th – 27th, 2010, had as theme “Soaring towards the future: Non-Oil Exports as driver of Nigeria’s Vision 20: 2020”.

That Conference took a holistic view of the non-oil sector, revealing the opportunities and challenges, while it also drew a road map for future growth. Participants at NNECEA 2010 also agreed that subsequent editions of NNECEA must address specific issues relating to the sector so as to achieve maximum impact.

It was as a result of this, that NNECEA 2011, which was held at the Ladi Kwali Hall of the Abuja Sheraton Hotel & Towers, on November 2nd – 4th, 2011, with the theme “Getting it Right with Non-Oil Exports”, therefore focused on Products, Finance and Marketing. A major outcome of NNECEA 2011 was that it brought to the fore the fact that Nigeria had enough non-oil export products to build a sustainable economy. The Conference also showed that Nigeria had a number of finance windows available for non-oil exporters; and, that the country had enough markets for its non-oil exports within its shores, the West African Sub-Region as well as Europe, America and Asia. But one issue that kept recurring was the poor quality of Nigeria’s non-oil exports, and the inadequacy of Government’s support policies and incentives to drive its growth.

Many attributed this to the lack of attention to issues of quality assurance, packaging and branding. Stakeholders also agreed that the current efforts to improve the fortunes of Nigeria’s non-oil exports will come to naught, unless something urgent was done to address this issue. The issue of policy summersaults and hiccups in the administration of the Export Expansion Grant have also truncated the slow but sure growth that Nigeria’s exports has recorded in the past few years.  This is given that the 21st century has been characterized by rapid changes and an unprecedented level of competitiveness. Thus, goods and services could now be produced and marketed anywhere in the world, even as advancements in technology have enabled smaller companies to indeed compete effectively with larger businesses. At the same time, customers have become increasingly more cost conscious than ever before. They now look for quality everywhere including: how a product is conceived, developed, marketed, distributed, and in fact, how it is serviced after sale.  Countries are also devising more innovative instruments to keep their exporters in the forefront of global trade.

This leaves Nigeria with very little options especially in its bid to diversify its revenue base in favour of non-oil exports. In fact, the country must either redefine its non-oil exports with a view to making them marketable in the ever challenging global competition or maintain the status quo, which means retaining oil as the primary export commodity. In any case, to reverse the trend will equally require a complete change of mindset and indeed a definitive strategy.

It is against this background that “Enhancing Nigeria’s non-oil export opportunities: Strategic imperatives”  has been adopted as the theme of NNECEA 2012, which will hold at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, on November 4th to 6th, 2012. Unlike previous editions, NNECEA 2012 will adopt an interactive workshop format focusing essentially on four key issues: Quality, Packaging, Branding and Incentives.. The Conference will review current trends in quality management especially of made-in-Nigeria non-oil exports to determine whether they fulfil the needs and expectations of customers in a globally competitive market.

More so, given that over 50% of purchase decisions are made at the shelf and that the packaging of a product is the first thing that the consumer usually sees, it will be necessary to re-examine how made-in-Nigeria non-oil exports are presently packaged. Are they packaged to develop on-shelf appeal, provide product information, protect the product, provide reusable value to the user, and, establish brand image and awareness? Do they promote both practical information and emotional appeal?

Above all, considering that advances in manufacturing, distribution and communication have resulted in an ever-growing sea of choices, have we been able to build powerful brands that can stand global competition? Do we have brands that deliver the message clearly, confirm our credibility, connect our target prospects emotionally, motivate the buyer, and guarantees user loyalty?        

One factor that has remained most critical in the ability of Nigerian exporters to sell profitably in the global market is the Export Expansion Grant.  Government, at the very highest levels, has kept on assuring Nigerian exporters of the continuity of the policy.  Yet, the implementation has repeatedly encountered hiccups and roadblocks, casting cogent doubts in the minds of the exporters and their overseas clients.  On the other hand, other countries are evolving even more incentives to ensure the continued competitiveness of their exports/exporters.

These are the issues that would be addressed at NNECEA 2012. The Conference will redefine Nigeria’s non-oil exports especially to ensure that issues of incentives, quality, packaging and branding are no longer taken for granted.

The two-day event will comprise very inciting lead presentations followed by panel discussions aimed at eliciting contributions and recommendations from key players and solution providers, which will thereafter serve as input into new strategies to enhance Nigeria’s export performance.It will also provide networking and business opportunities at the highest levels. We have invited representatives of the diplomatic community including the EU, US Trade Department, JETRO, ECOWAS Trade Department, China and the World Bank to provide insights into the global export market. Ministers and heads of Federal Government institutions meant to be able to provide solutions to the issues in focus will also be on hand.

There will also be opportunity for product exhibitions. And as is the practice, the highlight of the two-day event will be the Presidential Export Award, where excellence and hard work will be rewarded.  Our target this year is to secure the presence of     Mr. President to personally present the Presidential Export Award, which is, in its own way, another incentive to greater export performance.

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