Okonjo-Iweala thanks Buhari for support, says WTO to give Nigeria technical economic assistance

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, during her visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja, on Monday, March 15, 2021

The Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerian youths for supporting her candidacy for the WTO position.

Addressing State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with President Buhari, the WTO boss said she was in the Presidential Villa on a thank-you visit to the president for his tremendous support when she was campaigning for the position.

She said: “I felt I had to come to Nigeria first to say thank you to the President for his nomination and his support throughout the campaign, when he signed so many letters, talked to so many Heads of State to make it happened.

“I also thank the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who was so instrumental in making sure that I was encouraged to stick to the campaigns and he also worked very hard with the various Heads of State to support my nomination.’’

Okonjo-Iweala said Nigerian youths gave her an overwhelming support that encouraged her to go on with the race thus, emerging as the director-general of the WTO.

She said: “I couldn’t have done it without all these but I want to say a special thank you to young people in Nigeria. Honestly, they sent so much encouragement, day after day they were on social media sending encouraging messages, doing videos and so many things I didn’t even think about, to encourage me with the campaign.

“So, to the young people of Nigeria, I say thank you and I hope that this will show you that anyone of you can make it and also make the country proud.’’  

According to the WTO boss, her mission to Nigeria is to look into ways in which the organisation can help Nigeria improve her economy.

“I have come here to also discuss with the President what WTO can do to work with Nigeria to improve her economy.

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“First of all, Nigeria is a large market in itself, 200 million people. But we also have the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which makes a market of 1.3 billion people on the continent and there is a unique opportunity for Nigeria to improve its standing in trade.

“Currently we are 0.3 percent of world trade, 19 percent of Africa’s trade and the logistics, we rank 103 out of 167 but what does this say to us? It says that we have a great opportunity to improve our situation and our economy through trade and that is really important.

“I gave the President and example, of Sheer butter and sesame seed. Nigeria is one of the largest producers in the world and you know these are used for cosmetics.

“So, the WTO together with the International Trade Centre came here to work with women and men in a cooperative in Oyo State, to try to improve the quality of their products,” she said.

The WTO Director-General further disclosed that her discussion with President Buhari also touched on improving agriculture and the transition from fossil fuel to renewables.

“So, we talked about issues in agriculture; how we can add value to our agriculture products.

“As you all know, we have a transition happening in the world, going away from fossil fuels to renewables because of the issue of climate change, which is with us and to do that, we have to start the transition ourselves of course, we will need our gas and our oil for the next couple of decades or so.

“But we also have to start moving towards renewables.

“We have to start looking towards manufacturing, we have to add value to the products we now have.

“This is so that we can create more jobs and trade more. Let’s not export our jobs to the outside,” she said.

She revealed that they also looked at the potentials of Nigerian youth in music, movies and technology, so as to help them attain greater heights.

“Another thing we talked about was services; Nigeria has many young people with a lot of talent. I just saw today that one of our musicians won the Grammy award.

“Our music, our movies and technology are exported. Our young people are on the internet creating value, fintech, we have the investment in flutterwave that has led to the company being valued at almost a billion dollars.

“Our young people are doing so many things in services that can also be exported and that is one area we need to look at.

“I was very heartened when the president talked about investing in young people.

“We spoke about the Safe Schools Initiative and guarding our young people to grow them, invest in them so that they can attain whatever heights they want for the future,’’ she added.

On whether the WTO is concerned about the exchange rate regime in Nigeria, she  said she would be meeting with the Governor of the Nigeria’s Central Bank to deliberate on the issue.

“Yes, the WTO is concerned about foreign exchange, the way we manage it, the way we  use it and how we  use it to support manufacturing or  imports and exports in our economy.

“We’re also going to see the governor of the central bank, and will undoubtedly discuss some of these issues,’’ she added.