Promoting locally made goods, lessons of 8th Made-in-Aba trade fair

The eight Made-in-Aba Trade Fair kicked off in Abuja on Monday November 8 and ended on Monday 15 showcasing the huge potential in local manufacturing.

It provided a good opportunity for Abuja residents who were once again brought face-to-face with the ingenuity of the manufacturers from Aba.

The fair, a zonal intervention fund initiative (also tagged constituency projects) of Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, the lawmaker representing Abia South Senatorial District, recorded a huge success.

Away from what was obtained in the past where commitment towards patronising locally -made goods was lacking, the 2021 edition of the fair presented an avenue for individuals, government agencies and the business community to embrace the Buy Nigerian Campaign of the present government.

Notable among government representatives that attended the occasion were officials from the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, members of the National Assembly and the minister of state for mines and steel development, Uche Ogar.

Besides over 90 exhibitors displaying high quality products, the trade fair presented a more effective and efficient atmosphere for increasing brand awareness and also the introduction of new products.

While the artisans deepened their market, the facilitator, Sen Abaribe noted that the 8th edition of the fair was a celebration of success in the advancement of Nigerian made goods.

According to Abaribe, Made-in-Aba goods are receiving global acceptance due to improved qualities, thus the need to stimulate increased patronage.

“Our focus is in the finishing, packaging of the products and efforts to raise the quality of goods made in Aba and by extension goods made in Nigeria,’’ he said.

The lawmaker emphasised that improvements recorded in Made-in-Aba products further explains the need for Nigeria to look inwards to grow its economy.

“Because of the emphasis on making sure that we buy locally made goods, effects of COVID-19 pandemic and the general economic downturn, we have no options now than to look inwards.

“It is important to find a way of ensuring that we do not spend our scarce foreign exchange in importing products that we can make in this country,’’ Abaribe stressed.

The director- general of SMEDAN, Dr Dikko Radda, said that the programme exposed entrepreneurs from Aba business cluster to further development and standardisation of their products to meet national and international markets.

According to Radda, the trade fair brought to limelight the challenges and prospects of MSMEs as well as increased public awareness among the target participants on the strategic benefit of taking part in the fair.

He reiterated SMEDAN’s commitment to promote programmes geared towards accelerating growth and modernisation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Radda described MSMEs as engines of socio-economic transformation of any nation, providing opportunities to drive jobs and wealth creation as well as income re-distribution.

“The relevance of the sub-sector is probably better driven home by the following emergent facts from the NBS-SMEDAN National Survey of MSMEs, 2017 which reported an estimated 41,543,028 MSMEs in Nigeria, contributing 49.78 per cent to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“The sub-sector also employs 76.5 per cent of the workforce (or about 59.6 million persons) and accounts for 7.64 per cent of exports,’’ he said.

Radda emphasised that the expectation of SMEDAN was to drive more output from the sub-sector with more careful attention to resources deployment and proper management.

The Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, while hailing South-east ingenuity, promised an enabling environment to improve creativity in the country.

Lawan noted that indigenous manufacturing remained the foundation for the industrial revolution, critical in boosting the country’s economy.

According to him, this is essential considering the role it plays in boosting export and foreign reserves and in creating employment.

The Senate president stressed that the exhibition was a splendid avenue that showcased the ingenuity of the people of the South-east, noting that more could be achieved with the right incentives.

Similarly, the Senate chief whip, Sen Orji Kalu, urged the federal government to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place to promote the activities of local manufacturers.

While calling for the sustenance of the annual event, Kalu commended SMEDAN and Abaribe for supporting the growth of SMEs in Nigeria.

He emphasised that Made-in-Aba products can solve a lot of problems in the country.

“You can make anything in Aba. We are only asking that the federal government should give us electricity to boost productivity.

“We can manufacture cars in Aba and Aba can make anything that is made in China, but we need only one thing, light and nothing else and you will see the wonders of Aba,’’ Kalu said.

On his part, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Rep Benjamin Kalu, stressed the need for governments at all levels to provide the infrastructure needed to promote SMEs in Nigeria.

He noted that the availability of infrastructure such as electricity and production machines were crucial in boosting the activities of SMEs.

While commending the artisans for presenting high quality goods at the event, he urged them to always remain good ambassadors of the Made-in-Aba brand.

Kalu commended Gov Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia for supporting Made-in-Aba products and urged Nigerians to patronise locally-made goods, describing it as a sure way of supporting SMEs.

The event, no doubt, triggered excitement among the exhibitors who said that they made good sales and their expectations met.

Mrs Comfort Herbert, owner of Commy Fashion and Design outfit expressed pleasure being a first timer to the event.

“I was skeptical about coming to Abuja as an exhibitor, but after seeing all the plans and provision on ground, I am glad I did not miss out on this great opportunity to showcase my product and talent,’’ she said.

On her part, Mr Chinatu Nwagbara, chief executive officer of Chinatu Company Limited, dealers on handmade foot wears, stressed the need for increased publicity in subsequent editions, pointing out that it was critical in increasing awareness to attract more patronage.

“The turnout was impressive and the venue of the event well located and secured,’’ Mr Ernest Cosmos, CEO of FRESH Boutique said.

Some of the customers lauded the products and commended the organisers for a hitch-free event. They equally expressed delight at the affordable costs.

Mrs Treasure Adeyinka, a staff of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) described the products as surpassing the expectations and very affordable compared to prices from regular stores.

“This has shown that Nigeria is developing. Our products are beautiful enough to be exported and sold to other countries. We should be proud of our artisans.

“The trade fair is an eye-opener for anyone who has Nigeria’s interest at heart and serious effort must be made to make made-in-Aba products a first option for all,’’ another customer, Kabiru Mohammed emphasised.