Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala

BY EMEKA EJERE

Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says Nigeria’s abysmal share of global and Africa trade, respectively at 0.26 and 19 percent indicate that the country has a long way to go in becoming a major player in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and in the world.

Okonjo-Iweala who was speaking in Abuja on Monday during separate visits to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and that of Financé, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed expressd hope that Nigeria can still turn things around by tapping into the huge opportunity presented by the AfCTA.

The former finance minister, who was on her first official visit to Nigeria since assuming office on March 1, assured that the WTO would support Nigeria with capacity building and technical assistance, to improve the quality of the products for export as well as work with entrepreneurs and producers to ensure that the country’s products can access other markets in the world.

She disclosed that the organization would particularly, support women entrepreneur and help them access the international market working with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC)

Okonjo-Iweala also revealed that the WTO would work with other international organization that has access to more finance such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, (ADB) the Asian Infrastructure Bank and even the International Monetary Bank to help Nigeria solve some of the deficit with respect to infrastructure and other areas.

Her words; “Nigeria stands to benefit by encouraging and pushing more trade, becoming a bigger part of the multilateral trading system and to do that Nigeria has to produce more, add value to products and export more. Right now, Nigeria has 0.26 percent of world trade and 19 percent of African trade. You could see that as very small but you could also turn it around to see that it has a big opportunity to make use of what has happened with the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).

“The WTO will support the country with capacity building, technical assistance to improve the quality of the products that we export, work with entrepreneurs, producers to make that happen so that our products can access other markets particularly since we need to diversify away from oil and process more agricultural products and this needs a lot of care. So we hope to be able to provide that directly.

“We want to support women entrepreneur because we have a part of the organization called the International Trade Center that has the capacity to train women entrepreneur and help access the international market working with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). And we’ve already started that with people who are processing Shea butter and Sesame seed where Nigeria is one of the world’s largest producers. Those are some of the areas.

“Finally, WTO is going to work with other international organization that has access to more finance such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, (ADB) the Asian Infrastructure Bank and even the International Monetary Bank to see how we can come together to help Nigeria solve some of the deficit with respect to infrastructure and other areas and the regulatory framework for some of the trade areas. And then, be able to be strengthened for bigger and larger trade, particularly on the African continent”.

She disclosed that the WTO engagement with Nigerian entrepreneurs in trading shear butter and sesame seed has yielded results “We have already done something, we’ve started with women and men who produce Shea butter and we’ve worked with their cooperative and we’ve been able assist them to increase their production, meet the quality requirement to use shear butter for cosmetics and then they’ve sold 200 metric tons and orders for 500 more metric tons,” she said.

She later visited the country’s minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed where she reiterated her commitment to assist Nigerian products to add value and meet the requirements of world markets.

Speaking on the renewable energy, she said the world is moving in the direction of renewables and the country should move with the tide. “We have to advocate and migrate to other types of activities. Nigeria must think fast on how to join the movement and I support the minister in transiting from fossil fuel but we must advocate and be willing to migrate. We have a diversified economy that can actually benefit us if we invest in it, not just in goods, or agriculture, but also services”.

On COVID-19 vaccine, Okonjo-Iweala expressed joy that the vaccine has been supplied to Nigeria. She called for zero tariffs for medical products and supplies.

We in Nigeria want to advocate for transition energy because it is true now that th issue it climate change is upon us.

Earlier in her remarks, the finance minister, requested for assistance from WTO in the area of gas emission and bio-economic resources

“Our gas emission in Nigeria is very minimal compared to global emissions. We have these assets and we have not tapped into it to aid our development. We want you to support us and we have it in our agenda in COP 26 to campaign for gas to be classified as transition energy even if it’s for a limited period of 20yrs.

“We also want the WTO to support us in looking at how Nigeria can leverage on bio-economivlc resources. It is not new we have been too depended on fossils fuel and crude contributes significantly to the extent that whichever way the market swings to, that’s the situation we will find ourselves and it is unhealthy,” she said.