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Experts want govt’s attention, promotion of service exports to boost economy

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Experts identify free zones as key route for economic recovery

By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpang, Abuja

As oil prices continue to fluctuate in the international market, experts in the services industry want government’s attention and promotion of services export to boost economy.

This was part of the call on government to strengthen and support non-oil exports at a one-day ‘Roundtable On Harnessing the Potential of the Nigerian Services Sector for Economic Diversification, Employment and Foreign Trade’ organized by Policy Development Facility, PDF, Bridge, and held via webinar.

Stakeholders made it known that the services industry is massive with a lot of potentials that could be harnessed to diversify and create unprecedented employment in the country, and that if the enabling environment is created the service export alone would surpass revenue generated from oil and gas.

The Assistant Director, Services, National Export Promotion Council, NEPC, Abubakar Shu’aibu, stressed that NEPC has been making serious strategic efforts in that regard, but was slowed down due outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Shu’aibu, the pandemic has exposed potentials in services exportation in Nigeria, and the Council is currently on promoting services export in terms of policies.

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He said: “Bearing that in mind, the management has decided to come up with a workable strategy in order to promote services export, all the necessary supports, need be it in terms of policies, capacity building and sensitization.

“We have a line of programs that the council wants to take before the end of this year.”

However, the President, Association of Outsourcing Professionals of Nigeria, AOPN, Dr. Madu Obiora, made it known that services export is largely unknown to Nigerians including corporate organizations and individuals.

Obiora also asserted that understanding in detail, mode and how services export works will make create the desired and expected awareness, whereby organizations and individuals will key into and become big time services exporters.

“You are a service exporter when the people that are paying you are not resident here irrespective of where the services were performed and the location”, he said.

Also speaking was President and National Coordinator, Nigeria Network of Women Exporters of Services, NNWES, Nkiru Joy, lamented that women in the services sector are yet to receive any incentives that were given out.

According to Joy record has it that 70 per cent of the workforce in the services sector are women because women play a huge role in the development of the services sector and that whatever “we are doing that is not gender responsive will not drive us too far.”

She called on the NEPC to intensify awareness on what services and the enormous potentials and profitability of services export in collaboration with corporate organizations involved in services and ensure policies made comes through for women.

She added that funds should be made accessible to women in the services sector as it is with men to access loans, which women are finding it difficult to access loans.

Earlier, the Programme Manager, PDF Bridge, Titilola Akindehinde-Ojo, explained why government and the private sector need to synergize in bringing out the potentials of the services sector largely untapped.

Akindehinde-Ojo also expressed optimism that with the capacity in Nigeria’s services industry if properly and adequately utilized youth employment will drastically reduce and the economy will thrive.

“The services sector has emerged as the highest contributor to the national output in the last decade and offers great potential to drive the diversification agenda of the government.

“Bearing in mind that this sector possesses immense capacity to absorb a large proportion of unemployed youths and help create gender parity in exploiting economic opportunities, it has become imperative that Nigeria as a nation should explore ways to expand its export of services.”

The organizer of the webinar presented a report on ‘Study on Analysis of Potentials of Nigeria’s Services Sector for Economic Diversification, Employment and Foreign Trade’, which the report confirmed the status of services in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, as the largest contributor to GDP.

The report also stated that Nigeria does not have competitive advantage in any of the services sub-sectors and the absence of targeted and systematic export promotion strategies for exporting services.

It also stated that NEPC directs bulk of export promotion work to the goods sector, and recommended that policies are required to ensure services sector growth is enhanced.

The report reads in part, “There need to be holistic services sector policy with strategic development plans for priority of the sector.

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“Domestic regulation that will engender the profitable production and export of services are required to be put in place.”

The report also stated that government should be in the forefront of assisting to provide market opportunities for services firms in export market.

It added that foreign road shows and trade fairs should be overhauled to include services.

“There should be sector-enhancing liberalization, sector-targeted promotion, policies development of human capital, strong institutions and provision of critical infrastructure to promote the Services sector”, it pointed.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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