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Okonjo-Iweala challenges Africa to take advantage of e-commerce to engender trading competitiveness



The new Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Tuesday charged the African continent to take advantage of e-commerce and value addition processes to engender global competitiveness in world trading.

Okonjo-Iweala made the call at a virtual interview session anchored by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the Lagos Economic Summit (Ehingbeti) 2021.

She said e-commerce could drive industrialisation 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 WTO chief said more than 90 percent of pharmaceutical products were imported into Africa, a situation, which provided a big gap and opportunities for manufacturing within the continent.

Okonjo-Iweala, who was Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, urged both the federal and state 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.

She said: “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 percent 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.

READ ALSO: Okonjo-Iweala lists four issues to tackle in her first 100 days as WTO DG

“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 a big market.”

Okonjo-Iweala said that besides manufacturing, there were the creative arts and medical services, amongst others which the government must accord priority attention.

According to her, the future is changing and very dynamic; the future is artificial intelligence and the digital economy.

“Lagos is one of the most exciting cities in Africa and by extension, the world. So, how can we make the creative arts and 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 added.

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