When the federal government inaugurated the steering committee to implement its N50bn Export Expansion Facility Programme (EEFP) under its Economic Sustainability Plan, its focus was clear: While its primary goal is to increase Nigeria’s export capacity in the near term and its export volumes in the medium term; the EEFP aims to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on non-oil export businesses, thereby safeguarding jobs and creating new jobs as well as accelerating growth of non-oil sector to effectively diversify the Nigerian economy.
Expectedly, When the EEFP was officially flagged off and the first online Grant Management Portal (GMP) for non-oil exports was launched in March this year, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, who also chairs the 11-Man Steering Committee implementing the EEFP reiterated in his keynote address that, “The Ultimate aim of the Export Expansion Facility Programme as an intervention following the devastating economic effects of COVID -19 to exporters and MSMEs in Nigeria will be to save jobs, create jobs, support resilience in shoring up foreign exchange, diversification, modernisation of Nigeria’s economy and acceleration of economic growth and economic support”.
The programme is being implemented by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment.
In the same vein, the Executive Director/CEO of Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Mr Olusegun Awolowo commended the federal government for approving the Facility pointing out that monetary stimulus package as provided in the Facility will significantly help in reviving not only the SMEs, but also big corporations in the non-oil export sector that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This, Awolowo observed that the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on exporting businesses might be further exacerbated with the official takeoff of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January, this year adding that with the emergence of the single market, there will be attendant challenges that exporters will contend with.
It would be recalled that the ESP (under which the EEFP is a component) was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in June, 2020, as a N2.3 trillion stimulus plan to tackle the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians. The Plan was developed by the Economic Sustainability Committee chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, who the President also asked to lead its implementation.
Under the Export Expansion Facility, there are 16 programmes as approved in the Implementation Work plan under seven work streams namely – Capacity Building, Emergency Interventions, Export Aggregation, Export Inclusion, Export Trade facilitation, Institutional Strengthening and Market Development.
While the Capacity Building/Development focuses on the Development Fund (EDF) and Export Market Access Programme; the Emergency Intervention is to support existing exporters in responding to shocks caused by COVID-19.
Similarly, Export Aggregation involves Domestic Export Warehouse (DEW)/Aggregations Centres and National Export Infrastructure and Aggregators Programme; Export Inclusion involves the promotion of women empowerment and youth export development programmes; and Export Trade facilitation involves the establishment of an Export Trading House in African Region and similar emerging markets globally.
While institutional strengthening work stream involves institutional support to NEPC through service enhancement and digitalisation; Market Development involves penetrating identified export markets, value chain analysis for priority products, leveraging African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other trade treaties.
In all, the Export Expansion Facility Programme is expected to significantly raise the volume of non-oil exports in Nigeria, and it’s a spin-off of the Zero Oil Plan developed by Mr. Awolowo and approved by the President.
In a nutshell, the Zero Oil Plan is hinged on ensuring that Nigeria ‘s export is boosted to a level where the country would no longer be dependent on oil as its main foreign revenue earner.
In developing the Zero Oil Plan, Awolowo noted that the NEPC engaged hundreds of MSMEs exporters across all geo-political zones of the country to get the perspectives of small businesses on exports.
Significantly also, the group that will benefit more from the EEFP and the Export Development Fund (EDF) are the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which has been described as the engine room of the economy.
It has been said that the Export Development Fund would serve to complement the other areas that were not covered by the MSME Survival Fund, for export-oriented companies.
Recall that the Survival Fund, also a scheme under the ESP, was designed to support vulnerable MSMEs in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in the MSMEs sector.
The strategic objectives of the EEFP include to increase access to grants by exporting businesses; increase the ability of MSMEs to export non-oil products and services, improved the use of export infrastructure, including trading information for export related decisions by MSMEs, as well as increased access of MSMEs in selected sectors to international business opportunities in targeted markets.
Expectedly, there is excitement in the MSME sector about the EEFP grants. Since the Grant scheme flagged off with the Export Development Fund, the Programme anticipated 500 beneficiaries, but over 3,500 people applied for the grant out of which about 2,400 were verified after meeting the eligibility criteria. The verified applications have been assessed by Enablers, while the NEPC noted that further details and plans on disbursement to final successful beneficiaries are being awaited.
“The ultimate aim of the Export Expansion Facility Programme as an intervention following the devastating economic effects of COVID -19 to exporters and MSMEs in Nigeria will be to save jobs, create jobs, support resilience in shoring up foreign exchange, diversification, modernisation of Nigeria’s economy and acceleration of economic growth and economic support,” Adebayo emphasized.
The Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Yalwaji Katagun, also reiterated Adebayo’s view. She said, “We are confident the Export Expansion track will go on to impact the export-related small businesses even more. We must ensure that small businesses within the export-related sector benefit from the scheme in great numbers as this is the core objective of Mr. President’s approval of the scheme.”
With its strategic objectives in mind, analysts say that the ESP N50bn Export Expansion Facility Programme looks well on the right track towards charting a new course for Nigeria’s economic development through non-oil exports earnings.