By Chigozie Chukwuleta
As Nigeria gradually shifts it’s economic focus away from oil, Nigerians are being led to the new bride of the economic solace- the non oil export.
While the Nigerian Export Promotion Council is busy sensitizing and building the capacity of the public to embrace the new economic normal, Institute of Export Operations and Management is readily showing them the safe route to the promise land.
Established in 2014, the institute solely focused on business of improving the export practices in Nigeria and Africa.
In this interview with newspathfinder.com at the ongoing two days capacity building program for youths in Anambra state by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, the Executive Secretary/CEO of the Institute, Mr Ofon Udofia gave insight on the activities of the Institute and other issues with particular reference to Anambra as a possible warehouse of foreign exchange through service export.
Tell us about the Institute of Export Operations and Management
It is a trade support institution based in Port Harcourt and Lagos. The institute of Export Operations and Management was founded in 2014 because we discovered there was a gap in the export business which is knowledge. We are basically a training institute. We train young people, train people who are already in business, we train importers to become exporters. To do export and use their proceeds for import. We also own a packaging center in Port Harcourt to help the SMEs who are into food processing who may not have money to build a factory but rather they can use our processing center and use our lab to make sure their products are up to standard for local and international use.
Youth in Nigeria see export as business of the super rich. How can a young person start export business?
Yes, the issue with young people is that…escuse me to say this, …they look at money in a very fast way thinking that export is MMM. Export is not MMM. Export is not a transaction, it is a process. You have to be taught export, you have to learn export and that what we do. We help people learn export in international best practices standard. In the institute, we have something for young people. We have the Youth Initiative in Export where they can do easy export. There is no commercial export that starts between one to thirty kg. It is called non commercial export, they can do that. Then thereafter they can graduate to commercial export which is from there to a container load. They can also do it joint handedly. And God has blessed us do much with our population and with the diaspora population of Nigeria we can equally sell to our people.
There is so much talk about endless opportunity in this export business. So what exactly can somebody export?
I would rather answer it in this way. What can you not export? Because you can basically export everything apart from the ones that are banned like the endengered species, wood, charcoal etc. Outside them, you can export basically everything.
It is said that services are exportable. What kind of services?
Yes, that’s true. When you talk of services, skills can be exported. Like I told you, when I went to a country and l was told they have been looking for about 5000 technicians from Nigeria ranging from mechanics, welders, scaffolders etc. But we as a country we are not conscious about it. Because if we are conscious, we shall be able to train our young people, give them certification on those skills to enable them go to such countries. Countries like Pakistan, Tunisia and the likes, they make a lot money from service export. Government even champion it themselves. So we have a lot of skilled youths in Nigeria, even Anambra in particular can benefit from them. In the institute, we can help them if government can partner with us, we can do that, and take them out. Government could also benefit from them because 50 or 30% of the money they are paid over there will be sent back to Nigeria and government will take the foreign exchange component and leave the naira for them. Do invariably, Anambra Anambra can become warehouse of foreign exchange if this is taken into consideration.
What is your advice to young people who are aspiring to be exporters?
My advice to young people l will make in three fold, training, training, training. Because when you train, you build your capacity, you can do a lot.
Your word to young people generally especially those waiting for 21 century manna?
What I want to tell them is that thank God they are lucky. This is the advent of the internet. They can do a lot with their skills on the internet. Because in the export value chain, we have the farmer, we have the processor and we have the broker. That’s where the young people can really fit in. They can look at the internet and say okay, this person has cassava, who needs cassava. By the time you match the seller and the buyer, there is a percentage that is given to you internationally. You are paid in Dollars. So l believe with their knowledge, God will help them instead of going into yahoo yahoo, dipping people which is not good. Government can also invite them for a dialogue instead of chasing them and sharing the money with them. Government should dialogue with them and say, why not move from this to this that will make you more comfortable and make you free. Nobody will be chasing you. The Institute of Export Operations and Management can help through government partnership and organize trainings for the Youths, sharpen their knowledge and help with relevant certifications that will make them marketable. The institute is a critical source of knowledge -based resources and support for exporters in Nigeria. It is also a key provider of knowledge-based resources, products and services for the international trade community in Nigeria.