Nnamdi Okonkwo, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity Bank Plc, has emphasised the need for government to remove all legal, infrastructural and institutional bottlenecks hindering Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) engaged in non-oil export activities from competing favourably in the global markets.
This direction, he pointed out was critical to Nigeria’s quest for economic recovery. Okonkwo disclosed this in Lagos recently while delivering a paper at the Export Management Programme (EMP 4), organised by the Bank in strategic partnership with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and Lagos Business School (LBS).
MSMEs, he noted play a pivotal role in any economy, driving growth from the informal sector and promoting development through the creation of job opportunities.
Okonkwo who was represented by Chijioke Ugochukwu, Executive Director, Shared Services & Product (EDSS&P), Fidelity Bank Plc., said this position was being threatened by Nigeria’s Foreign Exchange (FX) crisis precipitated by the free fall in global oil prices. “FX earnings in Nigeria are largely from crude exports which account for over 90 percent of total export receipts. Hence, the performance of the Nigerian economy is very sensitive to crude oil price volatility”, said Okonkwo. In view of the prevalent economic situation, MSMEs, he said were unable to access requisite funds to sustain growth.
To stem this rising tide, the Fidelity helmsman was of the view that government must provide the enabling environment for MSMEs to thrive, further adding that this would in the long run take the economy out of the woods.
Infrastructural development, national security, focus on agric value chain, FX policy, intra-regional trade enhancement, funding were some of the critical imperatives needed to enhance the competitiveness of Nigerian exporters, according to Okonkwo. In his presentation entitled, “Bridging the Export Facilitation Gap – The Fidelity Approach”, the Fidelity boss advised the government to employ a combination of appropriate Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models and innovative infrastructure financing models to drive infrastructure development across the board. In the area of security, Okonkwo said, “We really need to explore political solutions to the insecurity problems in the country using a combination of social & economic vehicles to enhance the delivery of social goods to citizens to de-escalate the insurgency and militancy issues”.
Proffering solution to the country’s raging currency crisis, Okonkwo called for the establishment of market driven FX policies to quickly narrow the gap between the official and parallel market. “This will reduce the effect of arbitrage to ultimately continue to make non-oil exports competitive and attractive to exporters”, he opined. As regards supporting Nigeria’s agricultural value-chain, the astute banker stated, “There is need for deliberate government action through appropriate intervention schemes to enhance farm inputs (i.e. improved seeds, fertilisers & allied products, etc.) and mechanisation to drive increased quality and yield per hectare.” Okonkwo called for the integration of Traceability Systems in agro commodity supply chain in line with GAP to provide more comfort to off-takers.
“There is also need for government directed Actionable Mandate to relevant agencies to drive improved Quality Control & Assurance Processes”, he concluded. Launched in August 2016, the EMP is designed specifically to provide impactful, world-class training needed to improve the competitiveness of Nigerian enterprises, particular export-oriented businesses and the associated value players in the global market. But more importantly, the programme seeks to prevent the pitfalls that were prevalent in the past when huge sums of money were lost owing to lack of capacity and knowledge on the part of exporters. Four EMP series have now been held since then whilst efforts are in top gear to host another (EMP 5) in no distant time.