For Africa, particularly Nigeria to develop and take its rightful place on the world stage, concerted efforts must be made to strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to boost economy.
The Managing Director for DHL Express, Sub Saharan Africa, Hennie Heymans made the remark recently at an interactive session with journalists at the company headquarters in Lagos.
Heymans observed that getting the SMEs going is Africa’s best bet to key into the global E-commerce industry and benefit from it immerse opportunities.
He stated that the beautiful thing DHL has observed in Nigeria is the resilience of the entrepreneurs in the country noting that the nation could have suffered when the oil price dropped down to $29, but for the amazing resilience of Nigerians.
Heymans said: “We have seen the effects of declining commodity prices… We saw SMEs just stepping up their roles. It means lesser reliance on commodities, which is critically important. It also means their diversification has gained traction in the local economy. As we get the entrepreneurs into the market, we are starting to see some real economic benefit from it.”
The DHL boss, however, noted that E-commerce seems to be the biggest conduit for getting the SMEs going forward at the moment.
He, therefore, expressed the company’s readiness to engage with authorities and other stakeholders to leverage DHL global experience to help them prepare for maximizing the opportunities that E-commerce represent in a better and quick manner.
He said: “Looking at the statistics at the moment, Africa makes up less than two percent of the global E-commerce space and we should make up to 19 per cent. That is a fantastic opportunity for Nigeria with 89 per cent Internet penetration”.
Speaking on support for SMEs, Heymans disclosed that one of the initiatives of the company is the training provided to them in the country.
He said: “From time to time we hold free training sessions where we help the SMEs understand what its means to take products across borders, what they need to look out for, and what are some of the mechanisms that they can apply and utilize in order to take themselves across border so that they can benefits.”
He also revealed that DHL has created a vertical channel within the organisation to deal specifically with E-commerce.
He, however, warned that the country needed to get the fundamentals in place first so that she could get it right. He believed that for governments across Africa to get it right, it would be advisable to look at some of the mechanisms needed first.
He said: “Because that is what turns ones from a gatekeeper to an enabler. Those are the basis we need to start off. And from an enabler perspective, it is important for government doing a meeting of the mind and start implementing some of the basis. For instance, Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), entry, customs system, transparency, I think those are the things that could open up the economy to really benefit from E-commerce”.
He also observed that infrastructure remains a challenge for Africa noting that without it, Africa governments would have to make alternative plans.
Sending positive signal about the country to others, the DHL boss said what is different about Nigeria is the incredible opportunity its offer to the world, noting that despite the economic hindrances, Nigeria continues to perform well and the company’s commitment has been cemented even deeper than before in the country.
Also speaking at the media chat, the regional Director West and Central Africa, Randy Buday, urged the Federal Government to place greater emphasis on agriculture saying the country has the arable lands, great growing seasons and the people to make Nigeria a great agriculture nation.
He lamented that most of their planes from Nigeria return to Europe either empty or return with pineapples, papaya, and mango from Cameroon, Benin, Togo and Ghana.
Noting that these countries are the one getting foreign exchange for their agriculture produce, Buday observed that Nigeria needs to make its agriculture work by providing aircrafts, trucks, cold storages and other infrastructures to sustain her crops and get them to the markets.