The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has congratulated Dr (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her appointment as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), being the first female and first African to head the WTO since its formation in 1995.
This is even as the OPS group noted that transforming her appointment into socio-economic benefits for Nigeria would require that the Nigerian government prioritizes some trade and commercial policy measures as development agenda imperatives.
A statement issued by the OPS group’s Director General, Dr. Muda Yusuf, indicated that Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence came at a time when the global trading system was faced with numerous challenges including supply chain disruptions precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, rising protectionism and unilateralism, growing economic nationalism, imposition of trade restrictions covering substantial amount of international trade, as well as trust and credibility concerns among members.
Specifically, the LCCI boss noted that Africa had peculiar challenges in the global trade arena as the continent remained deeply integrated into the global supply chain and this underscores the
low participation level of African economies in international trade.
Noting that based on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa’s trade with the global community between 2015 and 2017 stood at an average of $760.1 billion, compared with Asia ($6.8 trn), America ($5.1 trn) and Europe ($4.1trn), Yusuf stated that these numbers indicated that Africa is not a major player in global trade.
To reverse the ugly trend, he advocated the pertinence for African economies to build capacity within the continent in order to take advantage of the opportunities in global trade.
The LCCI Director General further noted that Nigeria’s share in global trade was even more insignificant as the country’s export structure is still largely dependent on crude oil, which accounts for about 50% of government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange earnings while more importantly, Nigeria’s non-oil exports are largely primary commodities with little or zero value addition, thereby dimming the country’s prospects of tapping international trade opportunities.
According to him, for Nigeria to fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by the World Trade
Organization under the leadership of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, it is imperative to ensure that Nigeria builds capacity for international competitiveness of our products and services, addresses trade facilitation issues, especially around port processes, ports infrastructure, international trade documentation, foreign exchange policies, trade policies and industrial policies promote local value addition and backward integration to strengthen competitiveness of our domestic industries.
He expatiated: “We must undertake reforms of our tariff policy in accordance with the principles of comparative advantage, which would enable the country optimise opportunities in the global trade arena and enhance the citizens’ welfare.
“It is critical to develop an AfCFTA strategy that would enable the country leverage trade opportunities both continentally and globally.
“There is need to improve on our strategy in managing the coronavirus pandemic ranging from ensuring compliance to safety protocols to vaccine procurement and distribution.
“While the emergence of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as the new WTO Director-General is very gratifying and calls for celebration, there is a need to manage expectations around the outcomes for the Nigerian economy
given the numerous productivity and competitiveness issues the country is grappling with. Ultimately, these are the factors that would determine the benefits that would accrue to the economy from global trade”, Yusuf added.