The difference between airport services at Dulles International Airport and Port-Harcourt International Airport was not hard to miss as I arrived at the airport in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. From the wave of heat that hit me in the face when I stepped out of the airplane, the fragrance of the air, which was very different (not in a bad way), and finally the hassle to get to my luggage, I had no choice but to whisper to myself these three letters, “T.I.A,” meaning “This is Africa!” when I arrived at the airport in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria on March 28, 2013.
Staying true to our goal at Sandler Trade LLC – to make international trade really happen-while in Nigeria, I made time to speak and schedule visits with as many Nigerian farmers, small business owners, and exporters as I could.Transportation to each visit was very exciting, as I took a ride on the Keke, a wobbly but fast contraption. This was my first Keke experience and I found it an improvement over the alternative, such as the motorcycles also known as “okada” that filled the streets of every city the last time I was in Nigeria.
One of the highlights of my trip was the opportunity to speak at a seminar hosted by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) in Owerri, Imo-State, which is located in eastern Nigeria. Attendees were members of the “Imo Exporters Cluster,” who currently export or want to export their products to the U.S. market and others. Some of the products of interest included textiles and various agricultural products, such as palm oil, sesame seeds, millet, sorghum, garden eggs, cowpeas, among others.
The focus of our discussion during the seminar at NEPC was how best to utilize U.S. trade preference programs such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). I also described to the interested audience the many ways in which Sandler Trade LLC assists exporters to get their products into the U.S. market, and how best to market their products to highly selective U.S. consumers and potential business partners.
I also met with Dr. Chinyere Nwoga, who works with the Nigeria American Chamber of Commerce in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. She is also the founder and Managing Director of Soluzone Ltd., a consulting firm in Port-Harcourt that coordinates international trade missions, among other services. Our discussion was very fruitful and she described some of the requirements necessary to operate successfully in Nigeria.
Nigeria has been on a quest to diversify its exports. As the saying goes in international development, export diversification is a key ingredient for development. However, it is often difficult for developing countries to truly diversify their exports due to various country-specific reasons, as well as complex importing country requirements. However, with the organized high-priority effort in Nigeria to broaden its export base and take advantage of AGOA opportunities, there are bound to be break-throughs.
I made new friends during my visit and I, along with my colleagues at Sandler Trade LLC, will do our utmost to help them successfully bring their excellent Nigerian products to the U.S. market.
We would like to thank the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) for allowing us to be a part of their efforts. I also look forward to my next visit to Nigeria and my next Keke ride.
For Nigerian exporters seeking to get their products into the U.S. market do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
Prince Mbanefo, Sandler Trade LLC, Global Trade Advisor