…lauds Zenith Bank over commitment to Nigeria’s non-oil export goal
By Mabel Aderonke
Former Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Según Awolowo, has tasked financial institutions on the urgent need to support Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and encouraged them to participate in African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Awolowo stated this in his goodwill message made available to newsmen by his Media Aide, Mabel Aderonke, delivered at the Zenith Bank Non-Oil Export Seminar 2023, held at the Civic Centre in Victoria Island Lagos, where he extensively highlighted the opportunities that abound in the AfCFTA, from automotive to agriculture and agro-processing to pharmaceuticals to transport and logistics.
Awolowo who is the Secretary, National Action Committee AfCFTA observed that with a population of 1.3 billion people across 55 countries, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion, AfCTA offers plethora of opportunities for Nigeria to reap economic and social benefits as a result of potential future improvements in infrastructure, reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers to cross border trade among others.
He recalled how at the maiden edition of the seminar in 2015 he presented what he described as the newly developed zero oil plan, an economic blueprint, for the diversification of Nigeria’s economy, pointing out that Nigeria must survive in a world economy when and if she can no longer sell oil.
He pointed out that as the Executive Director/NEPC, they identified 22 products for which Nigeria must increase production volumes in order to earn at least $30 billion annually.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Nigerian Non-Oil Export Industry; The Present and The Future’, Awolowo noted that “The theme inherently poses two questions; firstly, what is the present? secondly, what is the future? From my vantage the answer to these questions is simply; an ambitious drive to rapidly increase the volume of Intra-African Trade, under (AfCFTA).”
According to him, there is an increased demand for both IT – enabled and non-IT – enabled professional services, adding that “there is a huge skills gap across Africa in the required industries, therefore actions must be taken to address this, if we are to succeed at attaining an industrial revolution in Africa. You must know, that when I say industrial revolution, I am also talking about the 4th industrial revolution, which includes the most cutting-edge hi-tech industries.”
While lauding Zenith Bank for playing effective role in ensuring that Nigeria remained committed to her dream of becoming a non-oil exporting nation, he emphasised that Zenith Bank and other financial institutions across Africa must carry along (MSMEs), and support them to participate effectively in the AfCFTA, particularly through tailored financial products and capacity building.
“You would play a key role in facilitating trade between Nigerian businesses and businesses in the African countries where you are currently present, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Gambia, while also expanding your footprint to other African countries.
“You must not only be known as the non-oil export bank, but also the AfCFTA bank. I have great hopes and confidence, that just as you did with the Zero Oil Plan you would also do with the AfCFTA,” he stated.