Monday, August 15, 2016

Growing Non-Oil Export Through Partnership With Nigerians In Diaspora

It was at towards the end of summer in 2014 that I visited the Spitafield market in London, United Kingdom and met a number producer sellers. It was a very interesting visit because it boosted my moral to drive export growth the Nigeria especially the possibility of export fresh farm produce. The market is located on a large expanse of land located at 23 Sherrin Road, Leyton, London E10 5SQ. This market has been described as premier wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower market the largest revenue earning fresh fruit vegetable and flower wholesale market in the UK. Fruits and vegetables arriving in the UK Airport every evening find their way to this market for sales to buyers all over country and beyond. The market is open for trade from midnight to approximately 11 am Monday to Saturday.

One major characteristics of this market, which also use it as a focal point in this article, is that, it is dominated by the Asians (especially Indian, Lebanese etc) who constitute more than 50% of the sellers. Another interesting observation I made was that, they import different farm produce (fruits and vegetables) from their brothers in their country into the UK. These have therefore contributed to the tremendous growth in the volume of shipments from a number of Asian economies to the UK and EU. This synergy between our citizens at home and abroad is what Nigerians need to emulate in order to make the current drive for exportation of Nigerian products abroad a sustainable and successful one.

The next question therefore is, how do Nigerians at home work with Nigerians abroad to form a formidable team that will start the exportation of Nigerian products and grow it sustainably to an enviable company in the international arena? I will use the lessons I learnt from few of our clients that have used this model successfully to highlight the HOW in this Write-up. There actually three of them. One of them ship to her sister in Ireland, the second person ship to her husband in UK, while the third person ship to his wife in Canada.

The first thing to note is that, if this arrangement is going to work in a sustainable manner, it must be at the instance of the exporters in Nigeria who is in dare need of better income, better business, better life and of course the most sought after foreign exchange.

Therefore the exporter needs to find a partner that he is very much comfortable with. This trust must be the first factor to be considered. It is the foundation of the Business relationship. Both must agree on their roles, responsibilities and benefits in the business and it will be great if this is documented in a memorandum of understanding (MOU). I will like to recommend that the partner should not be an employee that is doing a 9am to 5pm job but rather an entrepreneur that is self-employ or any person that is relatively free to do the marketing and logistics.

Having sorted out the trust issue, the other 3 critical things that needs to be consider is passion, skill and market. Marketing a cross border is very challenging especially when the product is coming from underdeveloped countries. The partner abroad therefore need a lot of passion for the business in order to keep moving and keep push until he breaks through. Passion is what creates the staying power in times of discouragement due to rejections of the products and even the country that produced it. If the passion is there, he will be willing to learn, accept criticism and correct any errors or observations made on the product.

When the issue of passion is settled, the next thing to consider is skill acquisition in the areas of promotion, purchase order, paperwork and payment methods. These are different areas of international trade that the partner abroad needs to know. What we have done to assist the partners of our client abroad is to develop a training product that has about 13DVDs and a Book covering different areas of international trade. This can be purchased and sent to the partners abroad for personal development. The international trade business is a very dynamic one with so many things to learn. So there is need for continuous personal development after the foundation have been laid through the initial materials.

The last in the three critical areas of consideration is the market. This requires the studying of the market to know the products that are in high demands where we have a competitive advantage in terms of production and pricing. He will need to segment the market and determines the segment he will like to target based on his strength and the perceived opportunities. For this kind of model, starting from the lower class segment and the shops or markets where they go shopping is very critical. This is because, this is the path of least resistance especially if you are doing processed food items, fruits and vegetables. However, if your focus is commodities, you might have to target the manufacturers in the lower cadre of the ladder before going to big ones in the export market.

Finally, these 3 critical factors are so essential that, if anyone one of them is missing, the partner will be frustrated out of the business. This is because market plus passion minus skill is equal to dream. Market plus skill minus passion is equal to a job. Passion plus skill minus market is equal to hobby. Lastly market plus skill plus passion is equal to the work you love. So, your partner needs skill to build competence, he needs passion for sustainability and market for the sales and profitability.  

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