On Friday, March 7 in Abuja, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), hosted eight enterprising women entrepreneurs at an exhibition with representatives fromLe Look, SheaCoco, Oluchi Gems, and Gurara Cosmetics in attendance. The exhibition marked activities celebrating International Women’s Day 2014 in Nigeria.
Exhibitors came all the way from Lagos, Kano, Minna, and Nassarawa States. Others were from the Federal Capital Territory.
“I make beautiful and stylish hand bags, iPad jackets, and school backpacks, all from waste products,” said Chinwe Ezenwa, chief executive officer of Le Look, “and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council has really empowered me to improve the quality and standard of these products for export. Today, I have branches in Lagos and Abuja.”
The NEPC is USAID/Nigeria’s institutional partner, engaged in promoting export of agricultural and handcrafted products from Nigeria. USAID and the NEPC signed a memorandum of understanding in February 2014 to strengthen the capacity of Nigerian entrepreneurs to improve the processing and marketing of products such as shea, cashew, sesame, leather, garments, processed foods, cocoa, home décor, fruits and vegetables, and seafood products in the West African and American markets under the USAID-funded Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transportation (NEXTT) project.
At the exhibition, products made from leather and local fabric—such as the hand-made bags, shoes, and cushions from Global Services—carpets, exotic gemstones and jewelry, cosmetics, and other items were on display. Also, a wide variety of body creams, lotions, body washes, and anti-dandruff creams extracted from natural coconut and shea butter oil were some of the fastest selling products at the exhibition.
In her opening remarks, USAID Deputy Mission Director Julie Koenen thanked the eight women exhibitors for beautifying International Women’s Day “with this colorful display of products.” She said USAID, in collaboration with NEPC, had decided to organize the event to celebrate the achievement of women in Nigeria. Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Nigeria qualifies for duty-free export to the United States of products such as dried fruit, boxed fruit juices, shea butter, ethnic printed fabrics, leather hand bags and shoes, cashews (raw, roasted, salted), fish (frozen, dried, or smoked), and gum Arabic. However, the country has yet to fully utilize the benefits of AGOA. With the USAID exhibition over, a new vista of opportunity might just be beckoning to these women entrepreneurs.