By Rukayat Moisemhe and Florence Onuegbu
Lagos, Feb. 16, 2021
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the newly appointed Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO) has charged the African continent on the use of e-commerce and value addition processes to engender global competitiveness in world trading.
Okonjo-Iweala gave the charge on Tuesday during a virtual interview session anchored by Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the Lagos Economic Summit (Ehingbeti) 2021.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Ehingbeti Summit has as its theme: ”For a Greater Lagos: Setting the tone for the next decade”.
She said that the prospects of e-commerce could drive industralisation in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Okonjo-Iweala said the need to move from the position of constant exporting of raw materials to value addition processes was pertinent, now more than ever.
The new DG, WTO said that more than 90 per cent of pharmaceutical products were imported into Africa, a situation, which provided a big gap and opportunities for manufacturing within the continent.
Okonjo-Iweala urged both state and federal governments to leverage the opportunities inherent in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) not just as a consumer market, but as a manufacturing and exporting nation.
”The world is going digital, which means e-commerce is here to stay and I am excited about negotiating e-commerce agreements because I feel our cities and countries can benefit.
”We have many Small and Medium Enterprises, many of which are women-owned and I would like to see them running on the digital platform.
”We also have to get from the position where we are exporting raw materials to one where we are adding more value and processes.
”For Lagos, Nigeria and the continent, we have to ask ourselves the big question, how do we industrialise Africa? And the agenda 2063 of the African Union looks very much like how we can get there.
”Africa imports more than 90 per cent of the pharmaceutical products that we use on the continent, so that is a big gap and there is an opportunity for us to manufacture those products.
”We have a market of 1.3 billion people, equivalent to China and India, and with the AfCFTA under implementation, Lagos and Nigeria must look at how they can take advantage of such big market,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala said that besides manufacturing, there were the creative arts, medical services, amongst others.
According to her, the future is changing and very dynamic; the future is artificial intelligence and digital economy.
“Lagos is one of the most exciting cities, so, how can we make the creative arts, the movie industry create more jobs for the youths.
“I think the biggest challenge for Lagos State is infrastructure, I mean infrastructure of the future, not just roads, but telecommunication infrastructure,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala also advocated the use of renewables and grids for steady and sustainable energy generation and supply.
I am ready for international challenges
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, at the same forum, also affirmed her readiness to confront the challenges associated with her new job.
She said that in confronting those challenges, there would be opportunities to leverage on to perform her duties.
“’Well, it is fantastic and I want to start by humbly thanking His Excellency, Mr President, thanking all Nigerians for your support and encouragement and I mean it sincerely.
“’The process is difficult’; it has taken almost nine months of competition and waiting and uncertainty.
“Nigerians have been absolutely incredible by sending me messages of support, going on the internet, some people have been making videos and releasing them.
“So, I feel incredibly blessed and I am happy that it has come out well and therefore, we can try to show what Nigeria and what Africa can do in such an international position.
“It is going to be very challenging but I feel ready; as everyone says, in every challenge, there is an opportunity.
“So, it will be good to see what can be done with all the countries around the world,” she said.
The WTO chief said that Africa should critically look at its demographics so as to be successful.
According to her, when you have 60 per cent of the population that is 30 years old and younger, then you have to worry about job creation.
“A successful Africa is an Africa that is able to create jobs for its citizens. And when I said jobs, I mean decent work, that is the biggest issue that the continent has to face.
“We have to create modern, decent jobs for our youths to avoid creating dislocation and unrest,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
In his goodwill message, the President, African Development Bank (AFDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, said that the youths are the assets of the state and should be given chance to showcase their worth.
Adesina said that the state should also invest in education by making tertiary institutions to be of world class standard.
”Youths are not the problem of Lagos, they are the asset. The slogan should not be the young shall grow, but the youths have arrived. Youths do not need empowerment or handouts, what they need is investment.
“The poverty level in Lagos has reduced from 30.3 per cent in 2009 to 4.5 per cent in 2019. About 20 per cent live in the slum. A prosperous Lagos will bring a healthier Lagos.
“Private sector needs to be mobilised to support the new Lagos. There must be accountability for taxes collected.
“I see a greater Lagos, a Lagos where visions are turned into reality and where women and youths thrive,” he added.