Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has not yet maximised the benefits in the United States-initiated African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) scheme, according to the Director General, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Dr John Osemede.
The private Vanguard newspaper Wednesday quoted the NACCIMA boss as saying the country had also not benefitted from existing trade agreements with other countries due to its infrastructural deficit and lack of protection for local industries.
He observed that majority of Nigerian non-oil exports have been rejected because they have failed to meet required standards.
“What is the agreement on the WTO agreement? What is the agreement on ECOWAS? Why are countries using VAT – 5 per cent, 10 per cent, 20 per cent – to protect their infant industries? Who is protecting the infant industries?
“That was when the problem started. So people can now take our produce, they determine what to take, the quantity to take, the price to pay, but in the first republic it was not like that because we had laboratories,” he added.
The NACCIMA boss recalled that Cocoa laboratory was in Lagos and in Akure, both in the South-west, but today they are no longer in existence.
Dr. Osemede urged the Nigerian Government to establish laboratories that would ensure exportable goods that will meet the required international standards.
He also called for the establishment of a functional commodity board and commodity exchanges to moderate the demand and supply of commodities.
“One is to have a sampling laboratory that if there is any issue, even if you have to go to the International Court of Justice or anywhere, that lab will be the first port of call.
”Two, we need a commodity board, which will now regulate supply and demand, price, quantity and quality; there’s what we call compliance; there’s what we call standardisation,” he explained.
He said with the failure to have a functional commodity exchange and laboratories, even if AGOA is extended for another 20 years, the country will continue to work for other people, without deriving tangible benefits.
“We are the number one producer of cassava in the world, why are we importing starch? We were producing 27 per cent of the world’s total palm oil requirement in the first republic, today we produce 1 per cent of the world requirement,“ the NACCIMA boss said.
He however expressed optimism that Nigeria would benefit more from AGOA if the programme was expanded to include more agricultural produce for which Nigeria had comparative advantage.
PANA recalls that AGOA was signed into law on 18 May, 2000, and offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.
Under the Act, African countries are allow to export certain commodities, such as apparels, leather and some agricultural produce, to the U.S. market without restriction as long as they meet international standard.
Initially it was a ten-year programme, but it has been extended for another 10 years
Even with the extension, many African countries are yet to derive the necessary benefits, due mainly to problem of infrastructure, standardisation and some hidden conditional ties in the Act that make it difficult for businessmen to access.