Despite the tough economic challenges posed by the coronavirus, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, urges women to be innovative, identifying several opportunities in export.
Top women in the nation’s maritime sector who are also members of WISTA Nigeria and described as WISTA Diamonds made this known during the association’s general meeting earlier this week.
In a bid to ensure Nigerian women and their businesses are better placed amid the pandemic, a former Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa noted that the pandemic should make women explore automation and restructure their businesses.
Ezenwa who is also the Chief Executive Officer, Lelook, described business as a war, encouraging women to fight the competition for funding via banks and fight their competitors with innovation and better products and services.
She encouraged them to source for new markets by embracing the export agenda of the federal government in a bid to take their businesses beyond Nigeria.
According to her, women should also endeavour to deepen their knowledge about their various businesses and explore the opportunities for improvement using technology and the possibilities for export.
She cited the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as a viable tool to utilize in exporting to the United States of America (USA), noting that the platform has existed for more than a decade yet many businesses are oblivious of the opportunity.
Her words: “Some of you like fashion, but this is also an opportunity for you to export locally made fashion products such as clothes and bags to USA and Europe. You can utilize AGOA for this. I have tappped into the AGOA platform to export to USA for years. Most people don’t know about this, yet they don’t ask questions”
“Your products must meet international standards, hence you must know your onion. You have to do market research. Most of you travel abroad frequently without exploring the opportunities for businesses. If you’re going to be successful in the post COVID-19 era, you must stoop to conquer. Be innovative, reimage your businesses and reappraise your life. Be responsible, train yourself and your members of staff to be conversant with global time zones and essential issues for global businesses”
Also speaking at the virtual conference, Co- Chairperson, Nigeria Admiralty Law and Procedure Reform Committee, Barr. Jean-Chiazor Anishere stated that policy identification would be key in the maritime sector for the post pandemic era.
She commended the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for taking the initiative to address policy issues for seafarers certification and remuneration.
Anishere who is also the President of African Women in Maritime (WIMAFRICA), asserted that the pandemic reinforced the need for digital technology at the ports, noting that women should leverage on innovation to network with their customers and clients.
She, however, noted that the pandemic increased the demand for items like hand sanitizers, face masks, hand wash, stressing that WISTA members could explore soap making, production of sanitizers and the textile industry for products to meet the new demands as well as export.
Anishere expressed optimism that the recent rapport between the heads of maritime agencies would address the issues of overlapping functions and enhance automation in the sector.
Meanwhile, the Chairperson Sealink Implementation Committee (SIC) Mrs. Dabney Shall-Holma, stressed that there is a dire need for Nigeria to balance its trade via export.
According to her, there are numerous opportunities for export of cashew nuts, ginger, sesame seeds, among others.
However, she stressed that the products should be harnessed with added value that would enhance the quality of the items while providing the much needed employment opportunities in the country.
“Over 90 percent of Nigeria’s trade is done via maritime. Nigerian ship agents are more meticulous. Some of them topped their classes after attending top universities around the world. Yet, the country can point an area of advantage across the various aspects of shipping,” she said.
Shall-Holma, a former Director at Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) posited that unless the nation attains better transport connectivity, it would be impossible to attain cheaper freight to make Nigerian products competitive in the global market.
The meeting also featured questions from WISTA members and contributions by other maritime amazons, such as; former Director, Special Duties at NIMASA, Hajia Lami Tumaka, a former General Manager at Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mrs. Carol Ufere, among others.
The President of WISTA Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke thanked the speakers, members of the association and assured that regular online meetings would be held to ensure members benefit from the wealth of experience of WISTA Diamonds.