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Okonjo-Iweala tasks Africa on e-commerce, value addition

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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.

It was reported that the Ehigbeti 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.

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