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Nigeria should lead Africa on AGOA, says U.S.-based trade promoter

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A U.S.-based African trade promoter, Ms Toyin Umesiri, has urged Nigeria to maximise the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Umesiri told the Nigerian News Agency in New York that with five years left, the instrument remained a viable opportunity for Nigeria to boost its non-oil exports.

AGOA is a preferential trade agreement initiated by the United States government in 2000 to establish stronger commercial ties between it and sub-Saharan Africa.

Specifically, the agreement allowed qualifying African countries to export over 6,000 products to the U.S. free of duty.

It initially approved for 15 years, AGOA was reauthorised for ten years by the Barack Obama administration on June 25, 2015, extending it to Sept. 30, 2025.

However, many African countries, including Nigeria, have not been able to maximise its benefits due to several factors including lack of capacity for mass production.

Umesiri, who is the founder and convener of the Trade with Africa Business Summit held annually in the U.S., said Nigeria should “lead Africa in taking advantage of AGOA’’.

This, according to her, has become very important especially now that the trade war between the U.S. and China gradually comes to an end.

Analysts see an increase in the demand for commodities at the international market as production activities rebound in both world’s largest economies.

Umesiri urged government at all levels to step up investment in infrastructure, develop a “solid export strategy’’ and closely engage with Nigerian exporters.

She also advised manufacturers of products covered by AGOA to improve on the quality of their products and form clusters to be able to meet huge demand from U.S. companies.

“When we are talking to a buyer, we are saying, `oh, buyer we have moringa; we have shea butter’, but guess what the shea butter is not aggregated.

“The volume is not ready, the quality is not ready, and we are inviting the buyer to come and do the work for us.

“That is not going to happen. That is something we need to work out internally in order to prepare for global buyers,’’ she said.

Umesiri also advised the country to look at ways to engage export trading companies as was the case in the past.

“I know that many years ago the cocoa industry in Nigeria was quite sophisticated, when you think about export trading and the role of export trading companies. That is something that we need to bring back.

“I really think that the lack of trading companies that aggregate and manage the middle market is why we are underperforming at the moment,’’ she added.

Edited by: Josephine Obute/Ekemini Ladejobi

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