The President of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), Chief Olabintan Famutimi, has urged the federal government to expedite measures on implementing the extended African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) programme in Nigeria.
According to him, the implementation of the programme can generate over one million direct jobs.
Speaking at a business roundtable dinner in Lagos, the NACC president said more than ever before, Nigeria is desperate for economic diversification, noting “we have arrived at the point of no return in our quest for those critical tools that would help develop trade and commerce outside oil, strengthen and grow our small medium enterprises, our manufacturing sectors, and add value to growth.”
According to him, implementing the AGOA programme will in a way address the challenges in the non-oil export sector in the country.
“It would also enable African countries to be engaged in the rules of origin to engender value-addition of raw materials as they could now include the cost of direct processing, as they share production from one country to another on their way to the United States market,” he said.
He explained that “when the Act was established, the Nigerian private sector in particular, believed in the golden opportunity being offered to us by this Act to genuinely shift paradigms; think outside oil, invest in and develop our second economy.”
He stated that nearly 15 years after the approval of AGOA, Nigeria’s export to the US under this Act totaled a miserly $2.6 million when South Africa did in excess of $1.2 billion. According to him, petroleum products continued to account for the largest portion of US AGOA imports with a 69 per cent share of overall AGOA imports in 2014.
“In the same year, US imports decreased mostly oil from Nigeria by 67 per cent. It is therefore in understanding the reason for this downward spiral as attributable to the decline in US import of merchandise associated with oil, that the need to break the jinx of our dependence on oil as our key foreign exchange earner should equally be understood,” he said.
Famutimi reiterated that AGOA can create more than one million direct jobs in Nigeria in a few years “if we get our act together. What AGOA can do for Nigeria in terms of job creation cannot be underscored. Since the passage of the Act, AGOA has generated about 350,000 direct jobs and 1,000,000 indirect jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
He noted that after completing its initial 15-year period of validity, AGOA was on 29th of June 2015 extended by a further 10 years, to 2025 which means that the US has graciously given us another 10 years to pump up our exports under AGOA and improve regional trade as well.
“With the 10-year extension, we can indeed continue to take advantage of the duty-free status afforded African goods entering the American market under AGOA, and investors can plan for the future,” he said.
He, however, reassured stakeholders that NACC is determined not to let another 10 years of AGOA slip through its fingers.
“We have taken it as a key responsibility to ensure that we collaborate with public and private stakeholders in bringing the value of AGOA to our people. This sensitisation programme is only one of several steps in that direction. Through public-private partnerships, we must continue to find solutions to constraints to bilateral trade and commerce initiatives like AGOA,” the NACC boss stated.
He therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment to put in place measures to ensure the effective implementation of AGOA in the country.