Adeyemo Urges Nigeria to Take Advantage of AGOA to Unlock Economic Growth

•Advises govts in Nigeria to embrace e-governance to fight corruption, enthrone transparency 

•Hails Nigeria’s creative sector

Obinna Chima

The government of the United States of America (USA) yesterday, advised Nigeria to position itself properly so as to take advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which provides eligible African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market so as to unlock economic growth in the West African country.

Responding to a THISDAY question during a media briefing in Lagos, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Wally Adeyemo, stressed the need for more investments in the agriculture sector, especially through modernised tools, for Nigeria to take advantage of AGOA.

AGOA which was enacted in 2000, provides eligible African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for over 1,800 products, in addition to the more than 5,000 products that are eligible for duty-free access under the Generalized System of Preferences programme. The programme expires in September 2025, and its extension would be subject to the United States’ Congress approval

Adeyemo added: “Fundamentally, our goal is to make sure that as long as this current duration of AGOA exists, Nigeria and other countries must position to take advantage of it. One of the things that I think Nigeria needs in order to better take advantage of AGOA is to make more investments in the agriculture sector.

“Today, I spent a lot of time teaching them about how digital evolution and revolution in Nigeria can unlock growth. Ultimately, the vast majority of Nigerians are still employed by the agriculture sector.  But the agricultural sector is not meeting its potential today because of underinvestment. Under-investment in the utilisation of new technology, land and water.

“One of the things that the United States wants to do in partnership with Nigeria is make sure that we’re making those investments in order to unlock the ability of the agriculture sector, not only to feed Nigerians, but to be able to feed other parts of the world as well and to be able to export products.

“So, we are thinking about ways in which AGOA may be able to change to better meet the demands involved in African economy. We want to work with Nigeria, not only through AGOA as a tool, but thinking about other ways we can partner with Nigeria to make sure that we unlock growth here going forward.”

Speaking about his visit to Nigeria, Adeyemo said it afforded him an opportunity to meet with members of the business community and some of the largest banks in Nigeria, and he gave a speech at Lagos Business School. In addition, he disclosed that he met some students as well as some startups.

“And I think one of the things that has been the most impressive about my time here is seeing the ways in which Nigeria and Nigerian companies, especially medium sized companies, are now becoming exporters to the rest of the world.

“And of course, it goes without saying that one of the things that has been the most impressive to me is seeing how Nigerian culture is being exported to the rest of the world, through the creative industry and then an ecosystem that has been built here in Nigeria as well.

“Before joining you for this interview, I had a chance to meet a number of Nigerian startups, companies that are in lots of ways, mostly fintech companies, which are meeting the need for credit in the economy, which is very much needed by the small and medium sized enterprises that make up the bulk of Nigeria’s economy.

“As you all know, there are more than 40 million MSMEs in Nigeria that employ 80 per cent of Nigerians and many of them need technology to unlock their potential. And a lot of firms are helping to develop that.

“And it’s a place where the United States is trying to play a greater role through the Development Finance Corporation, which is making significant investments here in Nigeria. I’m on the board of the Development Finance Corporation, and I know that Nigeria is a place where they want to invest because we see real potential here,” he added.

He reiterated his support for some of the reforms introduced by the Bola Tinubu administration, just as he noted the challenges facing the Nigerian economy.

According to him, while the petrol subsidy removal comes with some pains, it would, “ultimately create a new opportunity to take that money and invest it in Nigeria in ways that help invest in things like infrastructure, not just physical infrastructure, but digital infrastructure, and agriculture and education in ways that help grow the Nigerian economy.”

“In addition to that, taking the step of trying to unify the exchange rate is an important one because ultimately, it means that what Nigeria needs is a stable naira. Stable naira will help give the kind of stability that’s needed for international investors to be willing to put money to work here in Nigeria. “Over the course of my time here, I’ve met with a number of American companies that have investments here in Nigeria. As a person, they want to invest more, because it makes economic sense for them.

“But in order to do so, they need a macroeconomic environment that will create real opportunities for them to make those investments. So I think the government taking the steps that are needed will create an opportunity for investors not only from the United States, but also from around the world, to invest in Nigeria.

“Ultimately for the United States and the Biden administration, what we know is that the United States and Nigeria share so much in common with the largest democracies on our respective continents with Nigeria growing from 200 to 400 million people by 2050.

“We are also multi-ethnic democracies that are attempting to make clear to our people that democracy can deliver for their people. And that’s why the President was so happy to see President Tinubu on the sidelines of the G20 and we look forward to continue to work in partnership with this government,” he added.

He revealed that last year, the United States gave $1 billion to Nigeria in the form of assistance to help with health care, and also help with food security, saying that ultimately, “our goal is to make sure that some of the startups I saw would be able to unlock the potential of Nigeria to support itself.”

“Nigeria should be a digital economy, where everything is digitised, not only because it helps to reduce the likelihood of corruption, but also transparency.”

“I think we are going to continue to call on the Nigerian government no matter who is in charge, to take steps to address corruption, because it’s in the Nigerian people’s interest.

“Ultimately, if you want to build an economy that works for Nigeria, you need to address corruption, graft and fraud. That is critical to any kind of macroeconomic framework that ultimately will stand the test of time is addressing this major challenge in the Nigerian economy.”

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