Nigeria is said to be losing huge foreign exchange revenues and about four million jobs annually due to the country’s failure to fully maximise the benefits of a United States’ duty-free trade policy, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The scheme was signed into law on May 18, 2000 by the former American President, Mr. Bill Clinton, to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and improve economic relations between the US and the region.
After its initial 15-year validity period, the success of the scheme in increasing trade volume and value between the United States and some African countries made former President Barack Obama to extend the implementation by 10 years to 2025.
Through AGOA, Nigeria can export 6,500 products duty free into the United States, an opportunity unprecedented considering the huge market under consideration.
Some of the products that Nigeria can leverage on are garlic, natural honey, potato, onion, tomato, cucumber, vegetables, cabbage, chicken, goats, and milk.
Others include fish, eggs, peas, beans, corn, okra, kola nuts, guava, mango, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, papayas, rice, wheat and many more.
Despite the AGOA window, Nigeria has not seen a steady rise in exports – including non-AGOA qualifying exports – to America as shown by data sourced from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) from 2013 to 2016.
In 2013, Nigeria exported goods worth N2.91 trillion to the American continent and in 2014, the exports dipped to N2.23trn while in 2015 and 2016, the export value further dropped to N1.29trn and N1.66trn respectively.
The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has called for the urgent review of Nigeria’s utilisation of the AGOA window immediately after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office.
The Chamber’s President, Tony Ejinkeonye, advised the Federal Government to make a quick review of the scheme to enable the Nigerian business community benefit maximally from the scheme.
“His prompt actions will be far-reaching to promote trade and investments thereby encouraging inflow of foreign currency for the overall growth of our national economy,” he said.
Speaking on the potentials of the trade scheme, which is yet to be altered by the Donald Trump administration, an American business expert, Fred Oladehinde, said Nigeria can generate four million jobs annually through AGOA if it invested in the development of its Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector.
Oladehinde, who is the president of the Foundation for Democracy in Africa, a Washington DC-based NGO, said the trade deal offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.
The expert who noted that Nigeria had not maximally benefited from the scheme, said his organization was ready to work with the government and civil society organisations to explore the scheme’s benefits.
He said that the AGOA plan was to reduce unemployment through creation of 20 million jobs in Africa annually.
“We need to mobilise MSMEs so that we can improve and enhance not only the value chain from supply side but also include their participation in the global supply chain and create the badly needed jobs,” he said.
He said going by the size of Nigeria and its population, it means almost four million of these jobs will be created in Nigeria every year.
The Nigerian born-American said he was in Nigeria to work with some civil society organisations and government agencies to utilise the benefits of AGOAto create jobs.
Recently, Nigeria recorded a rise in non-oil exports, a development the Executive Director of Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Olusegun Awolowo, attributed to deliberate government policies.
However, the bulk of the exports was oil despite a noticeable rise in export of agricultural products.
Awolowo also acknowledged that Nigeria’s future does not depend on oil, adding that the NEPC is exploring alternatives to boost non-oil exports.