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Experts urge U.S. to improve on AGOA’s legal framework


Lagos -Members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) on Wednesday urged the U.S. to improve on the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) programmes to leverage African maximisation of the intercontinental economic policy.

They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that AGOA had not been particularly successful in the last 15 years due to numerous challenges.

NAN reports that the AGOA, as a policy, provides duty and quota free markets for goods from sub-Saharan African countries imported into the U.S.

The economic policy, designed to diversify investment and economic development of America and Africa, started in 2000.

The programme, which was also projected to end in September 2015, was only recently extended by 10 years.

Mr Tunde Oyelola, Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria Export Group (MANEG), said that the suspension of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) was stifling the non-oil export business.

He said that the suspension of the EEG contributed to the low volume of non-oil exports to U.S. under the AGOA scheme.

Oyelola admitted that the operation of the EEG between 2005 and 2013 led to a boost in the value of Nigeria’s non-oil exports from 700 million dollars (N137.20 billion) to 2.9 billion dollars (N5.68 trillion), with export of key commodities to ECOWAS and the EU.

Mr Segun Awolowo, Director-General, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), said that Nigeria had not really benefited from the AGOA programme.

Awolowo said that Nigerian exporters were still struggling with the challenge of the quality which made it difficult to fully access AGOA.

“Like we said before, AGOA is not a bad programme and we should not tag it as such, because we have not benefited much from it.

“What we are looking at is to spend more time and efforts to develop our local products, by adding value to them, and not just exporting in their raw state.

“For instance, we have shea butter, cassava, and cashew nuts as basic ones which we are currently working on, and we are counting on the government to unleash better platforms for non-oil exporters to be better encouraged,” Awolowo said.

He also lamented on the rate of rejection of the export products from Nigeria to some countries in the U.S., saying that it was an indication that more needed to be done by the government to protect exporters in the country.

Dr John Isemede, the former Director-General, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), said the U.S. needed to support Nigeria to benefit from AGOA.

Isemede said the large volume of exports in the country was a major limiting factor hindering Nigeria from benefiting from the programme.

He said that Nigeria was still backward in non-oil exports because it had little protection from the government for manufacturing and exporting.

Isemede also said that the suspension of the EEG, a government incentive for non-oil exporters, remained exporters’ biggest challenge.

He said that the United States should reduce its qualifications of rejecting goods from its AGOA-eligible countries, but should fashion out ways to support them to beef up the quality of goods.

Otunba Wasiu Taiwo, President, Nigerian Union of Tailors, said that fashion designers had not benefited from the various training programmes earlier scheduled under AGOA.

Taiwo said that fashion accessories and clothing should be one of the major focus of the programme in the oil sub-sector.

Mr Frank Jacobs, President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), also expressed optimism on the extension of the programme.

“Now that the programme has been extended, we hope the U.S. will look into the major challenges that have been limiting the programme and fashion out better ways to make it work.

“Now that we are looking for the EEG scheme to be reviewed on time, we hope it will help exporters to do more under the programme, as their owed Negotiable Duty Credit Certificate(NDCC) claims are also been paid,” he said.

While speaking at a press briefing in Lagos recently, Ms Florizelle Liser, United States Assistant Trade Representative for Africa, said the extension of AGOA was for the U.S. to brainstorm on better ways to make it better.

She said the value of non-oil exports from sub-Saharan Africa into the U.S. under AGOA currently stood at 4.4 billion dollars, which according to her, could have been more.

“Currently we have 39 eligible countries, and we are using this opportunity to reaffirm the strong support in the United States for closer commercial ties with our sub-Saharan African partners.

“The 10-year extension, the longest in the programme’s history, will also provide certainty for African producers and U.S. buyers regarding access to the U.S. market under the AGOA programme and create a stable environment that encourages increased investment in sub-Saharan Africa.

“An AGOA Forum which will hold in Gabon between Aug. 25 and 27 will be for top trade officials from both Africa and the United States to discuss how best to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the extension of the programme,” she said.
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Liser also urged African entrepreneurs to get ready to take advantage of better opportunities that would abound under AGOA after the forum.(NAN)

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