Government needs to adopt a strategy to mobilise INGOs for export promotion activities.
--BY KRISHNA RAJ BAJGAIN
International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) started their activities in Nepal in the early 1950s. Their activities gained momentum with the implementation of more liberal policies by the Government of Nepal after 1990. These organisations operate in Nepal with the stated purpose of supporting the welfare of the Nepali people and partnering with the Government of Nepal for development programs. According to the Nepal Cooperation Report, 2021 published by the Ministry of Finance, a total of 87 INGOs were operating in Nepal in the fiscal year 2020/21. The report also shows that the share of INGOs in the budget of Nepal in 2020/21 increased by 21.58% compared to the previous fiscal year, reaching a total of $162 million. The INGOs that contributed the most during that period were Save the Children Nepal, followed by Leprosy Mission, World Vision International, Plan International, and Qatar Charity.
The United States is the country with the largest number of INGOs operating in Nepal, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and Italy. However, the contribution of INGOs in export promotion activities is almost negligible, with very few exceptions.
INGOs can play a major role in the export promotion program of the Government of Nepal. According to the Nepal Cooperation Report, the scope of activities of INGOs active in Nepal includes service delivery, lobbying, awareness raising, and empowerment.
In light of this, it is crucial for the government to adopt a strategy to mobilise INGOs to focus on export promotion activities. The involvement of INGOs in the following sectors will be essential to boost Nepal's overall exports:
1. Technology transfer and upgrading
The Nepali export sector lacks modern technology and this is one of the major challenges for the country to improve its competitiveness in the international market. INGOs can play a crucial role in addressing this issue by taking the initiative in their source countries to create an environment suitable for the transfer of technology and technical know-how to Nepal. This will help in upgrading the production capacity, operating methods, and production processes of Nepali export industries to meet international standards. With this, Nepali export industries will be equipped with modern technology, and Nepali products will be more competitive in the international market.
2. Quality Improvement
One of the major problems faced by Nepali export products is the recognition of quality in target markets. Even though Nepali products are of good quality, they are not able to gain easy access to the market due to the lack of accredited labs and recognized certifications. INGOs working in Nepal can play a very effective role in solving this problem. In this context, the investment of INGOs in Nepal needs to be focused on issues such as upgrading Nepali laboratories, facilitating mutual recognition agreements, and accrediting laboratories by their source countries. It seems necessary to focus the cooperation of INGOs operating in Nepal in enhancing the quality related capacity of Nepali export sector.
3. Market Research
For a country like Nepal with a small-sized economy and a large number of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, market research can be a challenging task. To ease this burden, INGOs operating in Nepal can play a major role in conducting market research activities in their respective source countries. This will help Nepali exporters and startups to identify the appropriate market for their products.
4. Market Penetration
In order to make Nepali export products more competitive in the international market, a systematic entry into the target market is crucial, which is considered a core and most complicated task of export promotion. INGOs working in Nepal can easily perform this task by conducting campaigns to promote Nepali products in their source countries. They can provide procedural information to Nepali participants in trade fairs and exhibitions organised in their respective countries, effectively organise B2B meetings, promote Nepali products in their source countries through writing articles in the media and social platforms, and most importantly, counter any negative perceptions about Nepali products in the markets. The most important aspect is that the INGOs operating in Nepal have a huge responsibility in eliminating the rumours spread about Nepali products in the markets.
5. Mainstreaming of Products in Remote Areas
INGOs can play a major role in identifying the products produced by the backward, marginalised, excluded and downtrodden classes residing in the remote areas of Nepal and introducing such products in the international market. For example, if INGOs working in Nepal create an export environment in their source countries with a special focus on wooden products produced by the Raute communities in Nepal, it would be a great contribution to the entire community. The government of Nepal and donor agencies should reorient their priorities and take necessary initiatives to actively support INGOs in these areas.
(Bajgain is a Senior Officer with the Trade & Export Promotion Center. The views expressed here are his personal.)