By Kede Aihie
U.S. President. Trump has kept the media and world leaders busy, with his unconventional presidency and of course his tweets. How should Nigeria strategically engage with the new administration? The closest Trump policy in almost three weeks since becoming president, has touched Africa, is via the travel ban on seven countries with Muslim majority, which includes Libya, Somalia and Sudan.
Window of opportunity
President, Trump, appointed investment banker, Bayo Ogunlesi, to serve as a strategist on his economic policy team. The 16-member group is be led by Stephen Schwarzman of the American equity firm. Ogunlesi, 63, is the co-founder and chairman of Global Infrastructure Partners, an investment firm.
In so far as engaging with the Trump administration strategically, Nigeria should reach out Mr Ogunlesi, the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, former ExxonMobil, boss. Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu is also a former ExxonMobil executive.
If President Trump were to speak with Nigeria’s president, it will be the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN). Nigeria’s 74 year old president, Muhammadu Buhari, travelled to London on 19th January 2017, for a ten day medical vacation, which has now been extended indefinitely.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Nigeria in 1960, following Nigeria’s independence from the United Kingdom. Since 2015, Nigeria has not had a substantive Ambassador to the United States, this need to be rectified urgently. An ambassador is the President’s highest-ranking representative to a specific nation. The ambassador when confirmed by the Senate, should be a resilient negotiator, and respected representative of Nigeria’s interest.
Nigeria has not taken advantage of AGOA,
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) a United States Trade Act, enacted on 18 May 2000 as Public Law 106 of the 200th Congress. The Legislation was signed into law by President Bush. The legislation significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. AGOA has since been renewed to 2025.
According to Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Nigerian exporters are losing out on a lot of funds by not exporting under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Nigeria in 16 years of AGOA, due to lack of proper information and documentation, has missed out in the opportunity of earning about $50 billion in non-oil export trade. According to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, The United States is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria, with U.S. foreign direct investment concentrated largely in the petroleum/mining and wholesale trade sectors. U.S. exports to Nigeria include wheat, vehicles, machinery, oil, and plastic.). U.S. imports from Nigeria include cocoa, rubber, returns, antiques, and food waste. The United States and Nigeria signed a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement in January 2016.
The Nigerian government need to act decisively and strategically formulate an action plan in engaging with the Trump administration or risk being pushed down the line in Africa.
By Kede Aihie