By G9ija

A financial expert with Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr Isaiah Ndukwe, says Nigeria can be the biggest beneficiary of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with improved ease of doing business and enterprise competitiveness.

Ndukwe, who is the Divisional Head, Export & Agriculture Business, Fidelity Bank Plc, said this while appraising the just concluded Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) 2021 held in Durban, South Africa.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the trade fair presented Nigerians, especially those who participated in the event the opportunity for partnerships, collaborations and knowledge transfer.

Ndukwe noted that about 10 Fidelity Bank customers who participated in the IATF 2021 secured product off-take contracts and partnership deals in excess of 100 million dollars because of the bank’s ease of doing business and opportunity they got.

“The one quick win for us is development of market access for our export customers. We were at the inaugural IATF in Cairo in 2018 and the connections were quite an eye opener.

“We took several of our customers with us and also gave them platforms to exhibit and showcase their products.

“They all secured product off-take contract and partnership deals. Total deal size closed in Cairo was in excess of 75 million dollars.

“Same has happened on this outing with total deal size in excess of 100 million dollars.

“I strongly believe that if we can work on improving general ease of doing business and enterprise competitiveness, Nigeria can be the biggest winner of the AfCFTA.

“The IATF is one of the key levers of the AfCFTA in driving regional trade integration in Africa. On take-off, the AfCFTA will help to connect Nigerian businesses to the continental and global manufacturing value chain.

“This is why it is such a big deal to us and the reason we are taking proactive steps to enhance the readiness and positioning of our customers to take advantage of the growth opportunities that the IATF and the AfCFTA present to their businesses,” Ndukwe said.

According to him, IATF and AfCFTA were two economy drivers and that the country must take advantage of them for economic prosperity just as the bank has done with some of its customers who export goods and services.

“This is what differentiate us from the other banks. From a business operations perspective, non-oil export trade requires a total mindset shift. It is a very competitive business landscape especially if you operate in the realms of value-added exports.

“Hence, human capital development especially around readiness of businesses for exports is a critical foundation block to positioning Nigerian exporters to become more competitive in the global marketplace.

“The global marketplace is a brutal ‘free-market’ arena akin to the Roman ‘Death-Fight’ Coliseums. It takes no prisoner and will punish you if you neither come prepared nor have competitive and comparative advantages.

“For instance, if you are exporting something from Nigeria to UK, you are competing with businesses from other countries who are exporting into that same market.

“So, if you don’t land your product at a cheaper pricing or higher quality than competition, you will be priced out of the market.

“The global marketplace doesn’t care about your sentiments or product origin/country macro and micro problems. The overriding consideration is value to the final consumer of your product,” he said.

Ndukwe added that the bank created platforms like the Export Management Programme (EMP), a capacity development programme, they co-created with the Lagos Business School (LBS) and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), to help bridge business management capacity gaps.

He added, “Here, we teach aspiring and existing exporters how to become better at what they do.

“Some of the areas that we cover include but are not limited to product or raw material sourcing and effective supply-chain management, quality control and assurance processes, standards and global best practices.

“Others are packaging, contract negotiations and commercials, export documentation, forwarding, financial management and governance.

“We also provide financing and free advisory services to exporters to help drive business optimisations.

“Another way that we support exporters is in the area of market access development. We also support in export trade documentation services and advisory.”

He said the bank’s major aim of attending the IATF regularly was to help stimulate the growth of the Nigerian economy and expanding their market share in the banking business landscape, especially their export banking business.