Mr. Babatunde Faleke is the Regional Coordinator, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Lagos. In this interview with ABIBAT AMINU he speaks on opportunities open to Nigerian exporters, especially under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Excerpts:
Is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) still relevant today?
Yes of course the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is United States Trade Act is still as relevant today as when it was first mooted. AGOA significantly enhances the U.S market access for 39 sub-Saharan African countries. The Act originally covered the eight year period from October 2000 to September 2008. But amendments signed to into law by former U.S President George Bush in July 2004 extended AGOA to 2015 and former President Barrack Obama further extended it beyond 2015.
What makes a country eligible under AGOA?
The Act authorised the U.S President to designate countries as eligible to receive the benefits of AGOA if they are determined to have established, or are making continual progress towards establishing the following market-based economics including the rule of law, political pluralism, elimination of barriers to US trade and investment, protection of intellectual property, efforts to combat corruption, policies to reduce poverty, increase availability of healthcare and educational opportunities, protection of human rights and workers right, and elimination of certain child labour practices. These criteria have been embraced overwhelmingly by the vast majority of African nations, which are striving to achieve the objectives although none is expected to have fully implemented the entire list.
Exportation can be a very risky business, what is AGOA expectation on food exportation to USA?
Well, the expectation is very simple, there are six thousand four hundred products under AGOA and AGOA is a platform to increase Nigeria export to U.S so that is the essence of training. We organised it just to make sure that people do things rightly. There is the number one thing exporters need and that is they need to have what we call Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certifications without which they cannot export food to the U.S. If any food gets there without that certification, it will be confiscated or incinerated. Not only that, exporters need to do it the way it should be done so these are the reasons why we call the people in the food sector to talk to them and encourage them to do it the way it should be done.
How does AGOA benefit Nigeria?
AGOA seeks to forge stronger commercial ties between Nigeria as well as other qualified African countries and the United States while it helps to integrate Nigeria into the global economy. U. S firms may find new opportunities in privatisation of Nigerian state-owned enterprises or in partnership with Nigeria companies in infrastructure projects and it accelerates export to the U. S markets.
Does the Nigerian Export Promotion Council have a memorandum of understanding with AGOA?
No. But the NEPC has a sort of partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This allows USAID-funded agency, the West African trade and investment hub (WATH) based in Accra, Ghana to work in partnership with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council in providing technical assistance and industry specific best practices to the United States markets with support services.
What is the process of getting export ready certificate and what does a certificate of origin mean?
You must request for an export ready certificate (ERC) questionnaire and an ERC self-assessment form. Once completed, return same to ATRC wherein it is validated by our staff and forwarded to WATH who will further assist. A visit to your production site factory will be carried out and reported accordingly. A certificate of origin entails that in order to claim preferential treatment, the article must be imported directly into the custom territory of USA from the beneficiary sub Saharan Africa country and the importer must make a written declaration. The certificate of origin is prepared by the exporter.
What are the advantages of promotion of food export?
Yes, it is to increase our market essential and we are able to get foreign exchange and we are able to get foreign exchange and we are able to also increase our market shares like I said and it also increase our market of export products.
How can Nigeria become more familiar with the benefits of the AGOA act?
The US government has conducted technical assistance seminars through WATH in Africa and the United States to explain the benefits of the act in order to ensure that African countries are able to take maximum advantages of its provision. The essence of NEPC and AGOA trade resource centre is to ensure that consistent awareness and information on AGOA is disseminated through trainings regularly to members of the public. The benefits of training will provide up to date information on trade shows around the world, access to US markets, linkages and an increase in international and regional trade for exporters. Also the monitoring of export ready certificate (ERC) and assist in labeling, quality control, marketing, pricing and packaging into the US market.
What are the challenges?
The challenges are that people are not properly satisfied with their standard packaging and the cost of export considering the infrastructural challenge we have back home.