“The strongest oak tree in the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” - Napoleon Hill
Leaders will invest in crystal balls with a guarantee of foreseeing the future. When countries are faced with economic challenges such as falling oil prices, shifting market trends, increased competition, demanding stakeholders, economic crisis, security issues, layoffs, personal hardships, among others – most would just want to know when all these would end, or at least be under control. Increasingly people become concerned for their future; often they turn to their leaders for information, guidance, and direction. Leaders are then faced with the two-fold challenge. First, watching the bottom-line, and nurturing the populace.
Following the crude oil price slump, the country has been inadvertently forced to enhance its non-oil exports for increased revenue. The responsibility for this falls on some ministries and parastatals, such as Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), which was established in 1976 by the Federal Government of Nigeria to make the world a marketplace for Nigerian non-oil products, with a mandate to spearhead the diversification of the economy by increasing non-oil exports for sustainable economic growth.
The objective of the council is to diversify the productive base of the Nigerian economy away from oil and foster a market-oriented, private sector-driven economy.
Its responsibilities include promoting the development and diversification of Nigeria’s export trade, promoting the development of export related industries, promoting the implementation of export policies and programmes of the Government, spearheading the creation of appropriate export incentives, coordinating and monitoring export promotion activities in Nigeria.
Our Interview with the Chief Executive Officer of NEPC, Olusegun Awolowo sheds more light on the role of the organization in improving non-oil export revenues, its plans in achieving the objectives, and the successes so far (For Full Interview, see Special Features Segment of the The Street Hawker App/Website)
In this segment, we commend NEPC, The CEO, & The Team. Olusegun Awolowo, the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). NEPC is the Federal Government’s agency for the development and promotion of non-oil exports to expand Nigeria’s economy. He heads a staff almost 400 strong operating in 15 zonal offices throughout Nigeria as well as the corporate headquarters in Abuja.
So far, NEPC has increased international markets for Nigerian goods and services, which have resulted in accelerated growth of non-oil exports and improved global trade relations.
The Council has developed strategies and initiatives for diversification of the economy and accelerate growth in Nigeria’s non-oil exports, the flagship program is the “Zero Oil” plan.
The “Zero Oil” plan provides a roadmap to replace oil as the major national foreign exchange earner through carefully conceptualized interventions. The plan is one of the key components of the country’s recently released Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. The goal is to grow national earnings from non-oil exports first to US$8billion and eventually US$25 billion.
The “Zero Oil” plan also aims to diversify the country’s export base away from exporting raw commodities to value added products, increase participation of SMEs in export trade by 50%, achieve $706 million in non-oil export to the West Africa Sub- region and create 1.5 million new jobs in the SME sector by 2020.
- Selecting export products (Palm Oil, Cocoa, Cashew, Sugar, Rice, Cement, Iron ore/metals, Auto parts/cars, Aluminum, Petroleum products, fertilizer/Urea, Petrochemical and Methanol) to ensure that sufficient income can be earned to replace lost national revenues within a reasonable investment cycle.
- National Strategic Export Products (NSEP): A plan to diversify the Nigerian economy through the exportation of 13 strategic products that can earn Nigeria foreign exchange and are capable of replacing oil.
- One State One Product (OSOP): A strategy that challenges all 36 states in Nigeria to develop at least one key exportable product through the value chain based on their comparative advantage.
- Nigerian Diaspora Export Programme (NDEX): An initiative meant to leverage on the strength of the millions of Nigerians in the diaspora living outside of the country.
His goals are to shift Nigeria’s focus from exporting raw produce to value added products that increase revenue and value, create jobs and of course, improve lives. Mr. Awolowo believes the diversification of Nigeria’s economy away from oil, is the only way forward. Nigeria must continue its drive towards industry by supporting and promoting the development of budding entrepreneurial exporters.
Prior to joining the Council in 2013, Mr. Awolowo held various positions both in and out of the Nigerian Public Sector. A lawyer by trade, he was called to the Nigerian Bar in December of 1989. He began my legal career by working with Abayomi Sogbesan & Co. SAN and GOK Ajayi & Co. SAN. He then had the opportunity to serve in various positions in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration, first as Special Assistant on Traditional Institutions then Legal Due Diligence and Legal Matters, during which he covered a wide range of legal issues for Mr. President.
In 2007 he joined the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) serving first as the Secretary for Social Development Area Councils then later as the Secretary of Transport. As the Secretary of Transport Mr. Awolowo played a significant role in evolving a Master Plan for an efficient urban transportation system in the FCT. His experience at the highest level of the Nigerian Government has exposed him to national policy making across the country. He is married with three children.