By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Kampala, Uganda: Nigerian High Commissioner to Uganda H.E Ismail A. Alatise has called on African countries to embark on using their available resources and natural endowments to revitalize their economies and boost trade amongst them.
According to Mr. Alatise, available statistics show that trade volume between African countries account for less than 10% of their global trade, intra-African engagement is extremely low which he says can, and must be changed.
During a one-on-one chat with Umoja standard an Online News Agency based in Uganda’s Capital, Kampala, the High Commissioner stressed that increased trade volume would help to reduce Africa’s dependence on imported goods from foreign countries, thus developing their economies and also creating job opportunities.
He cited an example of Nigeria which is the largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria’s economy is said to have grown by 3.54% in the second quarter of 2022 making it one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and this is due to the country’s government’s dogged commitment to economic development.
The government had that one of the factors that had contributed to slowing down the economy was the fact that Nigeria depended largely on imported goods. Therefore, at the inception of its administration in 2015, the economy had challenges for which reason it to make economic recovery plan as one of its priorities.
Quickly, the new government embarked on economy diversification measures, away from Nigeria’s large dependence on oil and gas, as the major foreign exchange earner. These measures re-enacted the country’s focus on agriculture which used to be the mainstay of its revenue in the 1970’s before the advent commercial exploration of oil and gas.
Agriculture was then encouraged amongst Nigerian population in order to grow food for both subsistence and commercial purposes that would generate revenue in addition to oil and gas. Government also empowered the Bank of Agriculture to provide incentives to farmers for this purpose.
Within two years, the decision to embark on agriculture started to pay off and was a substitute to food, especially rice which the country used to import. Before 2015, Nigeria imported almost 60% of all the rice that was consumed in the country but later by 2018, it had reduced the importation of rice by almost 90%.
Nigeria now grows and mills the rice consumed in the country and the surplus is exported hence earning it foreign exchange.
“We have had economic recession twice that is; 2016 and 2018 and coupled with the devastating effects of the 2020 outbreak of covid-19 but we were able to quickly recover from it. What the government did in 2016 was to come up with a four-year economic recovery and growth plan that ran from 2016 to 2020.
In the plan, economic diversification was the central issue and we gave priority to sectors that had hitherto attracted less attention and this put the economy on a smooth path.” said the High Commissioner.
“I must say that, what we did differently at that time and now is the fact that we made a dramatic and fundamental change in the way we were previously doing our things because before we almost entirely depended on oil but later realized we needed to look at another direction like agriculture value chain”
“We are fortunate that we have a lot of potentials and our attitude is that these are all for commerce. We give attention to good foreign investors with different types of investment whether it is portfolio type or people who want to bring investment into Nigeria and establish businesses in other sectors, such as the solid mineral. Also,
locally our private sector is doing very well and we are not leaving them behind”.
The High Commissioner underscored that since 2015 the government had decided to involve the private sector to drive the economy and in so doing, they are given incentives and due support by creating enabling environment for them to grow for local consumption and for exports; to also attract foreign direct investment that is
vital to the economy.
‘We are actually doing a lot to make sure that we develop the economy without depending on our foreign partners. If you observe, many Nigerians now a days prefer to wear Nigerian attires and eat Nigerian food even while abroad.
Commenting further about economic dependency of African countries, the His Excellency noted that at the African union level, they now encourage African countries to develop themselves locally and depend on foreign countries to a lesser extent.
The high Commissioner decried the statistics indicating that African countries rarely do business among themselves, and this amounts to only 10% while the other 90% is with foreign countries which is not good at all.
On the other hand, foreign countries largely do business among themselves regionally, so, we need to do whatever is possible to change the narrative and that’s why the Africa Continental Free Trade Area comes in. If we are able to leverage on the good it comes with, it will be a step in the right direction.
“What we have to do is to utilize the potential we have, develop them well for the good of our people and the way to go is to first make sure that we do business together thereby increasing the volume of trade, between Uganda and Nigeria foe instance. If we are thinking about African integration, we should reduce the dependence on foreigners”
The High Commissioner also stressed that research and development is very key because without it, no innovations, no technology; you cannot grow, and continue to depend on foreigners which will not come for free.
“Nigeria and Uganda enjoy cordial relationship and we are looking forward to deepening it not only between us but also at African level by supporting each other whenever the need arises”.