In a major move to boost the diversification of the nation’s economy through non-oil exports, the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) has entered into a partnership with the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Sealink Promotional Company Ltd to bridge the waterways infrastructure gap and enhance the country’s trade in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region.
With the new arrangement, it is envisaged that the nation’s revenue from non-oil exports would rise to between $550 million and $1.2 billion annually. We laud the initiative and hope that it will expand the non-oil sectors of the economy.
Therefore, the government must ensure that the plan is faithfully implemented. For too long, the country has depended so much on crude oil exports for over 70 per cent of its total revenue earnings. For a country renowned for its vast human and material resources, it is sad that the solid mineral sector is yet to be fully exploited by the Federal Government. Also, the country’s agricultural potential is not yet fully tapped.
We believe that this is the right time the government should diversify the nation’s economy. Therefore, we call on the government, the relevant agencies and stakeholders in the private sector to work together to develop the non-oil sectors of the economy. And one area that can greatly enhance the diversification effort of government is the maritime sector. Some experts recently put the potential annual revenue from this sector at N12 trillion. This is above the country’s 2019 budget.
There is need for the government to develop the nation’s maritime sector. The current over-dependence on the Apapa and Tin-can Island ports in Lagos is not good for the nation’s economic development. There is no doubt that the country has reportedly lost so much revenue as more cargo ships are diverted to the neighbouring ports in the West African sub-region. For example, the Cotonou port in Benin Republic has been a major beneficiary of the non-development of other Nigerian ports.
However, the recent move by the government to develop other ports in the country is a step in the right direction. At the same time, government should upgrade the Nigerian ports in Onne, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri. The news that government has earmarked about $3 billion for the building of a new port in Warri is cheering. Let it expedite action on it. Apart from the Lagos ports, no other port in the country can accommodate big ships. Government should develop other ports to enable them accommodate big ships.
Beyond the new initiative to boost the non-oil exports, the Federal Government should also review its earlier export promotion measures. We recall that in 2016, the Federal Government set aside N500 billion for export stimulation activities in the economy. This money was administrated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Unfortunately, some manufacturing concerns had been unable to access the fund due to high interest rates and other administrative bottlenecks. Even the recent reduction of the interest to nine per cent is still not enough to encourage investment in the non-oil exports. This is why the government must work with the regulators and other key stakeholders to provide the enabling environment for export trade stimulation.
The government’s determination to diversify the economy by growing the agricultural and solid minerals sectors must be given the needed boost. Though it would take more than the resources of government alone to achieve the desired results, government must lead the way by investing more money in the non-oil sectors. It is not so good that the overall contribution of the non-oil exports to the country’s GDP is currently too low at less than 20 per cent.
Therefore, efforts must be made by the government and all stakeholders to shore it up. We welcome the present partnership to boost the non-oil exports championed by the NEXIM, NIWA and the private sector and urge that all efforts must be made to ensure its success.