Although Nigeria’s implementation strategy of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) might have affected the benefits from the scheme, the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), is hopeful that bilateral and diplomatic ties between the two countries will improve in the coming years.
According to the NACC President, Oluwatoyin Akomolafe, the Chamber is poised to promoting business relationships between Nigeria and the United States.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to Rutam House, The Guardian headquarters, Akomolafe noted that while visa refusal rates might have increased in the last few years, thereby straining bilateral ties between the countries, he is hopeful that Nigeria can take advantage of the AGOA scheme for improved export earnings.
Besides, Akomolafe noted that the visit was basically to discuss activities of the Chamber, preparatory to its 60th year anniversary celebrations already postponed to the first quarter of next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also emphasised the need for non-oil exporters to embrace higher standards while exploring the U.S. markets, saying: “Our members stand to gain a lot more with higher standards of exports and better access to finance under the AGOA project but that is currently addressed by the Chamber through education and training of members.”
The Federal Government had in 2018 begun the implementation strategy to ensure that non-oil products are duly accepted in the U.S. under AGOA.
The products that are being considered for export under AGOA include sesame seed, cashew, tomatoes, oranges, cassava, spices and ginger.
Others are Shea butter, cowpea, banana, plantain, cement, clinker, leather and articles of leather, arts and handicrafts, specialty foods and cocoa.
With five years to the expiration of the extended AGOA, the United States had earlier expressed concerns about the performance of the scheme, noting that petroleum products continued to account for the largest portion of AGOA imports, with a 67% share.
For exporters looking to explore the U.S. markets, Akomolafe explained that the Chamber is an AGOA Resource Centre, and works with the Commercial Section of the U.S. Embassy, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), in assisting its members with standards, among others, in exporting non-oil and agro-allied products to the United States.
Indeed, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, Constance Hamilton, had said AGOA has not led to the trade diversification the U.S. originally anticipated.
On Nigeria’s performance under the scheme, Hamilton said: “I think that Nigeria has not taken advantage of AGOA because they send us mainly oil, so in a certain extent, they actually are taking advantage of it—probably more than some of the other countries—but it is petroleum. And oil doesn’t really create the kind of jobs or other benefits from trade that I think that countries are looking for.
“I really think that the question for the Nigerian government is how do we take better advantage of the opportunities that AGOA presents? I mean, we have opened the door; we’ve got the trade hubs there to provide assistance to individual entrepreneurs, but it’s up to the government to create the conditions and to provide its businesspeople with what they need to access this market.”