When it started four years ago, the Made in Aba Trade Fair in Abuja was more or less a one man show. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe promoted the fair as part of his constituency project. Four years after, like the mustard seed, the fair has grown in size and organisation. The Senate has bought into it as a veritable avenue to promote Made in Nigeria goods.
The 2017 edition of the fair was particularly impressive. It pulled the high and mighty in the Senate to the Arts and Craft Villa Abuja venue of the fair. Some members of the House of Representatives who shared the ‘buy Made in Nigeria vision’ were not left out.
The opening ceremony of the five day event on Monday was also spectacular. It was brisk and business-like. It was not a speech making day but a day to showcase ingenuity, resourcefulness and can do spirit of Nigerians.
Perhaps Abaribe, the Abia South Senator, realised that looking inwards was the way to go. For him, Nigerians do not really have to look outside the shores of the country for anything. Why waste scarce resources on foreign goods when you can get them at relatively cheap prices in Nigeria, Abaribe would always ask.
“When we started in 2013, it was not fashionable to promote made in Aba or made in Nigeria goods. I thank the Senate President and my colleagues who supported us to stage last year’s edition after which we passed a motion to encourage local manufacturing and then we also passed an amendment to the Procurement Act,” he said.
Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, renewed his sing-song of the Senate working in synergy with the executive arm of government to smoothen rough edges of the business environment in the country.
Saraki recalled that last year, when he visited the made in Aba fair with his colleagues from the 8th Senate, he promised that the Senate would continue to do everything in its power to ensure that Nigerian businesses and manufacturers begin to enjoy more patronage from the Federal Government.
“This is precisely what we have done with the amendment of the Public Procurement Act, which has passed final reading in the Senate and making its way through the House of Representatives.
“We are in the process of making it easier for manufacturers and entrepreneurs around the country to benefit from the over N2 trillion in government procurement contracts,” Saraki declared
Represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’ Allah at the fair, Saraki said his office has launched the Made in Nigeria Challenge, aimed at showcasing the innovative ideas of Nigerian businesses.
“Through this challenge, which is still ongoing, we hope to identify goods, services and other products that can be matched with investors and government agencies, to lessen the plight of our homegrown businessmen and women.
“Today, as I see the various goods on display, I stand here reassured that ‘Made in Nigeria’ can truly and fully drive us towards the path of economic sustainability and prosperity.
“On our part, we in the Nigerian Senate, and the National Assembly as a whole, will continue to do everything within our mandate and powers to ensure that our domestic manufacturers and service providers have the enabling environment that they need to thrive.
“Working with the Federal Government, we will push for improved infrastructure, financial investment and technology to boost our domestic manufacturing value chain.
“We are partners in this process; we will continue to be partners. I believe in Made in Nigeria, I believe in Made in Aba. The possibilities ahead of us are endless,” Saraki said.
Director-General of Small, Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Dr. Dikko Umar Radda, who was also at the fair said the Made in Aba Trade Fair has not only become the flagship trade facilitator project of their annual zonal intervention programme, in partnership with the National Assembly, it has notably also become an important fixture in the Federal Capital’s annual business promotion calendar.
Radda noted that the entrepreneurial cycle is only complete when products of industry reach the final consumer.
Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, who was also at the event, told participants that the local manufacturers of shoes and leather products in Aba, Abia State, export at least one million shoes to Europe on a weekly basis.
He noted that there were over 15,000 shoe makers in Aba who produce over 300,000 shoes per day.
At least one million of the shoes find their ways to Europe and other parts of the world on a weekly basis, he said. The exports, he said, are estimated at about N1billion weekly.
He said that Abia people and the state is happy that Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has approved the garment making industry of the Made-in-Aba sector.
It may be necessary to add that any platform that will encourage local manufacturers is worth it.