Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has canvassed the need for concerted effort towards diversifying the country’s export base through the promotion of non-oil exports.
Onyeagwu gave the charge during a Webinar, themed: ‘Prospects of Non-Oil Export During and Post COVID-19’, organized on Wednesday by the bank.
According to him, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which negatively impacted the demand for oil and by extension, crash of crude oil prices in the global commodities market, has further exposed Nigeria’s over-dependency on crude oil earnings and the country’s susceptibility to oil-related shocks.
The banker recalled that the developments in the last few months following the outbreak of the pandemic had also highlighted the limited range of the country’s value-added products exported to foreign markets.
He further pointed out that growing the non-oil export had become more imperative, in view of the opportunities that existed in the broader contexts of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), both of which seek to create a continent-wide market of 1.2 billion people with combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion and about $4 trillion in consumer and business spending.
While commending the efforts of the government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in supporting the non-oil export business in the country, Onyeagwu charged operators and stakeholders in the non-oil export value-chain, particularly exporters and financial institutions, to play their part in the current efforts towards growing the nation’s non-oil export base.
In her keynote address, CBN’s Director of Trade & Exchange, Dr. Ozoemena Nnaji, noted that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for the Nigerian government as the pandemic exposed the over-dependence of the Nigerian economy on one product – oil.
She advocated a deeper policy look at the non-oil sector to find ways of genuinely improving the quality and quantity of our non-oil export goods.
Contributing to the discussions, the Chief Executive/Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, commended Zenith Bank management for promoting non-oil export business in the country, describing the bank as the export trade bank of Nigeria.
Awolowo, who spoke on the topic ‘Repositioning Non-oil export as a Leading Revenue Earner: Government Plans and Programmes’, noted that the drop in oil prices, following the COVID-19 pandemic and OPEC’s price war with Russia, reinforced the perennial call for the diversification of the nation’s economy.
As part of the efforts to achieve this, the NEPC boss called for all stakeholders’ buy-in into the ‘Zero Oil’ policy of NEPC.