ON the final day of her three-day visit to Nigeria, World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Okonjo-Iweala met with women entrepreneurs and representatives of small businesses to discuss the challenges facing these groups and the role the WTO can play to help them benefit from trade.
Earlier in the week, she met with President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President, senior members of the government including the Honourable Minister and Minister of State on Trade, Industry and Investment, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Minister of Finance, the Minister of Women Affairs, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, business leaders and the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
In her meeting with Nigerian captains of industry on March 16, the Director-General praised Nigeria’s efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and urged the country to build on this success. She emphasized the importance of increasing vaccine production, ensuring equitable distribution and making sure that medical goods such as vaccines can cross borders seamlessly.
The Director-General underlined the role that trade can play in helping Nigeria’s economy diversify and move from oil dependency towards a modernized and low-carbon economy. Tapping into external demand can help pull people out of low-productivity activities and into more tradable goods and services, she said.
The D-G emphasised Nigeria’s success in the hospitality, retail, finance, entertainment and app development sectors as examples of how to tap into the endless opportunities digital trade can offer to both small and larger firms. Connecting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and especially women-owned businesses, to regional and international market opportunities is key. More people will then benefit from trade, raising living standards and creating jobs, she said. The WTO provides the underpinning for open and predictable global trade.
In a meeting with women entrepreneurs and representatives of MSMEs on March 17, D-G Okonjo-Iweala stressed the role of women and small businesses in the economy and the need for additional support for their efforts to thrive commercially. The challenges facing women and MSMEs have been worsened by the pandemic, she said. ‘Lowering the obstacles for businesses of all sizes, and especially women-owned businesses, to participate in international trade would help build back a better economy for everyone after this crisis.’