From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Monday, asked Nigeria to encourage and push for more trade.
Okonjo-Iweala, saying this was the only way the country can benefit from the WTO, also called on Nigeria to add value to its products and exports more that will attract the rest of the world.
Speaking while received in audience by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala said that the WTO will support Nigeria with capacity-building and technical assistance with a view to improving the quality of products that the country exports to other countries.
According to the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy, ‘Nigeria stands to benefit by encouraging and pushing more trade, becoming a bigger part of the multilateral trading system, and to do that, Nigeria has to produce more, add value to its products and export more.
‘Right now, Nigeria has 0.3 per cent of world trade and 19 per cent of Africa’s trade. You could see that as very small, but you could also turn it around and see it as a big opportunity to make use of what has happened to the Africa Continental Free Trade.
‘So, WTO will support Nigeria with capacity building and technical assistance to improve the quality of the products that we export. We will work with entrepreneurs and producers to make that happen so that others can access other markets, particularly since we need to diversify away from oil and process agricultural products and this needs a lot of care. So, we hope to be able to provide that directly,’ she said.
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the WTO will partner with other organizations that have access to more finance, particularly the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asia Investment and Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help Nigeria solve some of the deficits as far as infrastructure is concerned.
She also assured that assistance will be rendered to Nigeria in other areas, including the regulatory framework for some of the trade areas in order to strengthen Nigeria for bigger and larger trade, particularly on the African continent.
Okonjo-Iweala further pledged financial assistance to Nigerian and African women under the International Trade Centre which possessed the capacity to train women entrepreneurs and help them access international markets in collaboration with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council.
‘A lot of women already run businesses and they want to access markets. But one of the things they complain about is the quality of their products and access to marketing and how they can sell. So, those two things the WTO actually has the capacity to be able to assist them. And we have already done something. We started with women and men who produce share butter and worked with a cooperative and we have been able to assist them to increase their production and meet their quality requirements to use share butter for cosmetics for 200 metric tons and others for 500 metric tons. So, that is a specific example of what we can do working with women entrepreneurs,’ Okonjo-Iweala also said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Onyeama, meanwhile, hailed Okonjo-Iweala as the first woman and first African to clinch the coveted position of the Director-General of the WTO.
Onyeama added that Okonjo-Iweala made the country proud by attaining the position with hard work, diligence and competence.