Export promotion is a key step in increasing trading opportunities for any country. It is time Somalia took it seriously.
It is estimated that the value of exports from Somalia in 2017 was upwards of $ 395.77 million and that in 2018, the figure fell to $ 345.20 million. These figures are set to rise exponentially the moment oil and gas drilling gets underway.
At the moment, agricultural produce, especially livestock, remittances, and marine products like fish account for some of the county’s exports. Somalia is known for its fish exports, its camels, sheep and goats, animal hides, and bananas. It is known that some of the close trading partners of Somalia are Middle East destinations like Oman, Yemen, and Emirates. However, even African nations are increasingly becoming major players when it comes to trade with Somalia.
As the country moves towards increased commercial engagement with the world, it is imperative that the Federal Government of Somalia makes deliberate steps at setting up the country and its industries for success by creating an external trade environment that is healthy, accessible and fair so that Somali traders and companies can take advantage of the opportunities available.
This is why there is an urgent need for a well-coordinated and government-driven export promotion endeavor. Simply put, export promotion is the conscious action of a nation at increasing its space and volume for trade by seeking new markets, engaging existing markets in ways that create new opportunities and negotiating favorable trade environments for its industries, products and businesswomen and men with the rest of the world.
Somalia has reached a point where its key sectors like marine products, agriculture and the telecommunications sector are expanding at a reasonably high rate and soon, the output will demand new markets. This will be further boosted by the Standard and Quality Control bill being debated at parliament, once passed.
Export promotion has been used by nations all over the world to give their products and their traders a broad-based supply system and push them further and fully into the global trading system. This is an important aspect of the country’s process when it comes to export development and participation in trade across the world with all the attendant benefits of such engagements.
Often, as would be advisable in the case of Somalia, through the Ministry of Trade and Industries, Chamber of Commerce, Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs among others, this process led by government institutions and organizations. The benefits of doing this the right way will immediately be visible in the changes in the country’s gross domestic product, which is affected by the values of export-import trade that the country engages in.
What can be done?
Creating productive linkages
The government, through export promotion organizations can facilitate the connection between buyers (foreign companies/ markets) and sellers (Somali traders and industries). This can be done by providing the traders with the right information on both ends, creating linkages and networking opportunities, publicising export and import opportunities available on both ends to mention a few.
There is a high premium put on trust and quality products in the international trade arena. One bad apple can impede trade between two nations fast and undoing the damage might take years. Hence, based on existing practices across the globe, Somalia can promote the quality of its products or even the entire industry abroad.
Take for instance the success of money transfer services, the government can sell the trust and efficiency and simplicity of money transfer services as a unique Somali product. This stamp of approval from the government can go a long way in enticing telecommunication firms and FinTechs across the globe into partnering with Somali companies that are involved in remittances.
To support this, the government and the various firms from the country can go for internationally recognized quality assurance certification. Like the global ISO certification.
The ability of a trader or representatives of local companies to move to foreign markets in search of market opportunities can sometimes be hindered by budgetary limitations. The government of Somalia can step in and organize trade fairs and trade exhibitions in the country or in specific markets abroad. SMEs, for instance, can be co-opted into government trade delegations that are sponsored or their cost of travel can be subsidized by the taxpayer.
What do export promotion agencies/ organizations do?
- They build the image of the country and the products and services to be exported through advertising, advocacy and promotional events.
- Offer support services like logistical services, dealing with customs matters, provide exporter training and offer relevant trade information.
- Engage in marketing through importer and exporter missions not to forget trade fairs.
- Engage in market research and offer this information to traders through market-specific publications.