The newly appointed Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has urged Africa as a continent to take advantage of e-commerce and value addition processes in a bid to engender global competitiveness in global trading.
Okonjo-Iweala made the urge during a virtual interview session that was anchored by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the Lagos Economic Summit (Ehingbeti) 2021.
The Director-General said e-commerce could propel industrialisation in Nigeria and Africa at large.
She said the need to advance from the stage of constant exporting of raw materials to value addition processes was important 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 urged both the federal and state governments to take advantage of the inherent opportunities in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) not just as a consumer market, but as a manufacturing and exporting country.
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.
“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.”
She said that apart from manufacturing, there were creative arts , medical services, and others which the government must give attention to.
According to the DG, the future is rapidly changing and very dynamic, as such, artificial intelligence and the digital economy are the future.
She added: “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.”