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The Nigerian Export Promotion Council: More, further, better

Nigeria is known for its oil and gas, but this is only the tip of what the country has to offer. From agriculture to art, the Nigerian people are talented and hardworking; to make sure this work is duly rewarded, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council was founded to grow, promote and improve the country’s export trade, 40 years later, they are still working to put Nigeria ever more firmly in the global market, building their country a name and reputation that goes beyond the oil and gas sector.

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) was founded and formally inaugurated in 1977. Whilst the orders that put the council in place have been through several changes and amendments in the 40 years since, their mission has remained the same: “To make the world a market place for Nigerian non-oil products.” The oil and gas industry is a cornerstone of Nigerian industry, but it is a far from straight-forward sector; as well as modern questions over the sustainability of the industry, the sector has been through dramatic challenges ranging from vandalism, terrorism and political unrest. For these reasons, and to make sure that their economy’s eggs were not all in one troubled basket, the NEPC was formed to encourage the other products and markets that Nigerian exports could explore. “for sustainable and inclusive economic growth”

To build a strong contender for, or supplement to, the oil and gas sector, the NEPC is not only promoting the growth of existing export trades, but also the trade’s continuing diversification, to ensure that all of the country’s trades are represented and able to benefit. This is for the good of Nigeria as a country, as well as its individual residents – with diversified export, more farmers and workers are able to create a promising life for themselves, and as a nation, the economy can grow stronger and more stable.

Developing export goes beyond legislation and organization, although developing better policies and programs is an essential part of the NECP’s operations as a go-between for Nigerian industry and the government. However, the process also calls for the practical development of export-related industries themselves. This includes packaging and logistics, including transport on road, air and sea. It also involves searching for new and creative ways to inject life into export trade, such as created appropriate export incentives. Finally, it means working with farmers and manufacturers to develop the products themselves, to guide how to make them most valued when exported, and even working with the wider market to secure and promote Nigeria’s place within it.

Of course, you can’t develop a system without working with the people, which is why NEPC provide HR training to personnel working with the sector, and well as training for those working within export industries themselves. In part, these programmes are organized by the NEPC and the Nigeria government themselves, but they also frequently work with foreign missions from overseas charities to co-ordinate sponsorship and training programmes that are provided this way. Working in cooperation with these charities means the NEPC can direct their efforts to what is most needed in Nigerian export. They also provide a trade information service to the Nigerian people, make access to essential information far easier, allowing operations to move more smoothly and for the most beneficial choices to be made by all parties.

This collecting and sharing of data may seem the least dramatic of NEPC’s operations, but it is a complex and never-resting task that forms the backbone of the services and support they are able to offer. From market research to publishing marketing opportunities that exist abroad, they are able to inform the sector on the opportunities waiting to be seized, and how best to seize them. Having their thumb on the data pulse also allows them to organize essential events, such as international trade fairs and exhibitions to show off Nigerian products, as well as planning and running trade missions.

Looking more closely at their work with products, the NEPC’s Product Development Department focuses on identifying suitable products for export to the foreign markets, and once these have been chosen, developing them to the right standard, and supporting their producers in their manufacture and preparation. This includes advise on product design, packaging, quality standards and even pricing. They perform these services in a range of industries, including agriculture, consumer goods and solid minerals. Their work in agriculture is particularly important; whilst it is also supported by Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture itself, NEPC work closely with farmers through awareness campaigns on good agricultural practices, as well as providing workshops, seminars and training sessions.

However, the NEPC were serious when they claimed they would diversify Nigeria’s exports: on top of this work in the traditional industry sectors, the council has also worked hard in creating awareness campaigns for the export of services – a lesser thought of but extremely profitable form of export: that of Nigerian talent itself. The push let to the creation of the Nigeria National Strategy for the Export Professional Services, which officially focuses on a range of sectors, from financial series, ICT and software development, through to education and even the music, film and entertainment sectors. As well as launching a pilot project into international outsourcing of IT services, Nigeria, through the NEPC, has begun working to promote and develop its arts sectors, and in particular its film industry. Whilst up against stiff competition, the country is rightly looking to utilize every people-group and skill set, to the benefit of not only the economy, but artists’ lives.

Differences such as these allow the Nigerian people to reach beyond national borders and to bring new business into the country. The more diversified these avenues are, the less the economy will need to rely on the complex oil and gas market. Whilst other bodies exist to protect Nigeria’s oil and gas interests, strengthening their other industries by enabling them to secure and navigate better trade will make for a stronger, more widely flourishing country, with success available to all sectors and types of talent. That’s the dream for any country, and the NEPC aren’t losing sight of that vision for their own.