What Nigeria SMEs Need to do to Excel in Export Business

After completing the one year NYSC programme, Garba Mohammed decided to become a full-time entrepreneur. He honed his skills in making shoes and hoped that his products would be exported abroad. But his dream of becoming an exporter has not been realised because he does not know how to go about it.

“Exporting begins with a state of mind. It is not, or should not be a casual business,” the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) stated in its ‘Export for Beginners’ Guide.

This insists that as beginners, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) must know that export business is indeed serious business.

There are three categories of exporters recognised by the NEPC: merchants, agents and producers/manufacturers. SMEs can fall within any of the three categories. It cannot however export as an individual but as a limited liability company, non-governmental organisation or cooperative.The NEPC Guide for export also shows that small businesses just beginning to export are likely to be confronted with lack of product and market information, logistics, management of export trade, being non-conversant with export procedures and documentation, lack of access to fund to start export business and lack of export culture.

To start exporting as a business owner, the first step is registration with NEPC which can be done online and this usually takes 12 hours according to the NEPC. After that the new entrant into the export business must learn about export quotation, product sourcing, market knowledge, funds sourcing, making an export offer, payment methods and export documentations.

The Director Export Development and Incentives at NEPC, Barr. George D. Enyiekpon, speaking on the topic ‘Export Opportunities for SMEs’ at the 4th Charter Anniversary of the Rotary Club of Utako, Abuja, said for people to succeed in the export business, they must have knowledge of their product, environment and market.

“Know your product, know the quality specification, know your market, know the standards required by the country you are exporting to and you will succeed in exporting. Currently, Nigeria exports 117 products to 102 countries across the globe.” he said

Also, Enyiekpon said exporters must ensure that the products they want to export meet standards and quality specifications. “The first quality specification is the national quality. The second quality is the buyers’ specification. You cannot export a product that does not meet the specification of the importing country.

“Even if the product meets the quality of the national standard, you must be careful when going into the export business to ensure that you meet specification of the importing nation. If you have any doubts on if your product meets the standard, get in touch with NEPC and they we will guide you.”

Enyiekpon also listed incentives that are available to SMEs when they want to go into export business. We help you to secure visas to the country you want to be exporting to and we have funds which we give to exporters to allow them do market surveys in those countries. The NEPC has provision to pay for your flight ticket 50% to and from the country you visit to see what your competitors are doing,” he said.

Again, very heart-warming for MSMEs is the fact that they can get funds from the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) when they have an export order. “If you have an export order today and you do not have money to export, please feel free to go to NEXIM Bank.

“The Nigerian Export-Import Bank was established from the NEPC to take care of funding and financing of exports. The bank will not charge more than 10% for whatever funds/loan they give you,” said Enyiekpon.

However, Enyiekpon said you will not be able to access these funds if you are not registered with NEPC. “This must be confirmed by us. And if you still have difficulties there, you meet us and we help. The money is from the Central Bank of Nigeria,” he said.

The NEPC has an ‘Export Clinic’ which is its capacity building programme developed strictly for newly registered exporters where they are equipped with all the relevant information about export business coordinated and/or executed by the council.

The clinic domiciled within the council’s headquarters and its 14 zonal offices nationwide, is designed to interact with the newly registered exporters with the view to orienting them on its responsibilities to them and giving them a general overview of export business as beginners.

SMEs can leverage on the clinics to learn the secrets of export business and be properly guided on what to do to excel.

Data sourced from the NEPC showed that since late 2011, over 800 newly registered exporters nationwide have been trained in the clinics.

The council counsels SMEs to be patient in the export business as they are not likely to turn into successful exporters within weeks or even months.

“It will probably take much longer. But the time and care taken to select the right product and the right place or places for an initial export venture can minimize the risks and make ultimate success quicker and more certain,” the council stated in its ‘Export for Beginners’ Guide.


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