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 the economy.
The Managing Director, 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 said 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 oil price dropped down to $29, but for the amazing flexibility 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 maximising the opportunities that electronic trading 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 it 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 utilise 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.
Also speaking, the Regional Director, West and Central Africa, DHL, Randy Buday, urged the Federal Government to place greater emphasis on agriculture, saying the country has the arable land, great growing seasons and the people to make Nigeria a great agriculture nation.
He noted that most of the 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 ones getting foreign exchange for their agriculture produce, Buday urged Nigeria to make agriculture work by providing aircraft, trucks, cold storage and other infrastructure to sustain her crops and get them to the markets.