Churning out good products, as Aba entrepreneurs do, is fine but there are clear-cut ways to make good money from those products, especially if you are an exporter

‘Various speakers at the event said Abia State, owners of SMEs and freight operators would make more money, create job opportunities and improve the economies of Southeast states and the country’s economy if there would be favourable government policies that would protect local industry’

President Muhammadu Buhari’s rhetoric and local content policy may have changed the story of Aba, Abia State’s city of commerce and enterprise. The city’s enterprise is well known, but the entrepreneurs have not always profited from that fame. Their products are not well packaged, and are sometimes dismissed as substandard. That is partly because the producers have little cash to boost their businesses, and also because Nigerians are fixated on everything foreign.

Taking office in 2015, and with a drained, import-dependent  economy to manage, President Buhari stressed that the only way to recovery is Nigerians producing what they use. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has visited Aba to sink the message in and to stimulate local content growth. The state governor Okezie Ikpeazu has also worked hard to create the Aba brand, taking it with him everywhere he goes, tapping up investors. Their efforts are yielding fruit. Investors have started coming, and gradually the brand is shaping up. But there is more work to be done, said the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) in the Southeast. You have to make the product make more money.

The NSC, which now has an office in Aba in anticipation of the increased volume of trade, organised a seminar for Small, and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs (SMEs) and stakeholders in shipping and freighting to educate them on how to profit from made-in-Aba products.

Various speakers at the event were of the view that the state government, owners of SMEs and freight operators would make more money, create job opportunities and improve the economy of southeast states and the country’s economy at large if there would be favourable government policies that would protect the interest of the local industry.

The participants at the event commended the NSC for such a laudable step towards equipping them with the right knowledge on the do’s and don’ts of exportation in order to prevent their products from being rejected for not meeting international standard.

The participants, especially importers of raw materials and other products, also raised concerns over the deplorable state of roads in the Southeast, activities of the Nigerian Customs, poor supply of electricity in the region and Aba in particular. They also called for the construction of railway lines linking Aba to other parts of the country and for the federal government to provide technical assistance and market connections to entrepreneurs through the shippers and exports promotion councils.

They also urged the NSC to mount pressure on major stakeholders to ensure that the Ntigha Isiala Ngwa Dry Port takes off for ease of doing business and reducing cost of moving goods within the southeast region and beyond.

The stakeholders who lauded NSC over their roles in enhancing shipping business and protecting the SMEs, also called for a common facility centre (CFC) in Aba zone to support whatever they have been doing in order to promote the exportation of made-in-Aba goods.

In her address, the Southeast Zonal Coordinator of NSC, Mrs. Ify Okolue said that the importance of the seminar cannot be overemphasized especially at a time when the federal government and most state governments were championing alternative sources of income.

Okolue said that the kickoff of the Ntigha Dry Port remains a priority for government agency and stated that the multiplier effect of the dry port would touch on the facets of the state economy and that of the entire Southeast.

She reassured the stakeholders of the agency’s commitment to ensuring that they do their business seamlessly.

She said that the essence of the seminar which, according to her, would be regular, was part of the agency’s commitment towards ensuring that potential exporters have the necessary information about importation and exportation of finished and unfinished goods from Nigeria to other parts of the world. She added that a well-informed producer or manufacturer won’t have his or her goods turned back in terms of meeting the standard of exporting goods at the global scene.

The Executive Secretary/CEO Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello said that the seminar was historic as it was expected to bring to limelight the industrial ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Aba man and woman as the federal government continues in its initiatives in the promotion of non-oil export potentials of the nation’s economy.

He said, “Gone are the days when people derogatorily spoke about locally made goods of which the Aba business community has pioneered and driven over the years even without any encouragement. I want to place on record that if you were able to achieve some level of success in the sector when there was little or no support from the government, you have every reason to record much more success now that the government of the day is on your side.”

 

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