Story by Tayo Olanipekun
The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) – AGOA Trade Resource Center have concluded a day workshop on utilisation of the AGOA Textile Visa Stamp for Garment Manufacturers in Aba, Abia State.
The workshop which held recently in Aba, one of Nigeria’s hub for garment manufacturers had in attendance 77 garment manufacturers who got first hand information on the AGOA Textile Visa Stamp.
The Visa Stamp enables garment manufacturers to export to the United Stated of America duty free under the AGOA Act.
In his opening address Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NEPC, Mr. Segun Awolowo gave a brief of AGOA explaining the scheme was created to promote commercial ties between Nigeria and other AGOA eligible nations.
Represented by Deputy Director/Regional Coordinator, South East, Mrs. Gertrude Ukoanam, Awolowo said, “AGOA is meant to strengthen commercial ties between Nigeria and other eligible countries and to help them access the US market duty free.”
Ukoanam continued that, “The program was also aimed at educating Stakeholders on the utilisation of AGOA Visa Stamp in order to expand their business frontiers by exporting to the US market.”
“The program is to further demonstrate NEPC’s effort to help Nigeria diversify her economy by empowering the local businesses, helping them to acquire global status as the NEPC is saddled with the responsibility of promoting non-oil exports from Nigeria,” she said.
Representing the Regional Coordinator, NEPC South West, Lagos, Mr. Samuel Oyeyipo was Mrs. Bolanle Emmanuel who also heads the AGOA Trade Resource Centre in Lagos.
Emmanuel intimated participants on the essence of the programme which includes accessing the AGOA scheme.
She also told the participants that the NEPC’s CEO is passionate about AGOA and wants participants to take advantage of the scheme before it expires.
“AGOA is an Act enacted by the US law in the year 2000 to enable exporters export duty and quota free to the US,” she said, adding that, “To benefit from AGOA garment manufacturers must have the technical knowhow and plug in before it expires in 2025.”
Speaking at the event, NEPC’s consultant on garment, Mr. Emmanuel Odonkor said reason for the workshop was to enlighten garment manufacturers who must take advantage of the AGOA Visa Stamp before the expiration of the offer.
“This is essentially to inform garment producers of what it takes to export to the US. The AGOA Act allows garment manufacturers to export to the US duty free,” he said, adding that, “They need to know the steps to take to make this possible.”
Odonkor however informed the manufacturers what steps they need to put in place for them to benefit from the scheme.
“Garment manufacturers must know the required infrastructure to have in place and the kind of equipment, skills development, enhancement they need.
“They need to know how to have access to the market as well, then I like to add that the export is finally endorsed with a Visa Stamp which is like a visa to enable them export to the US duty free,” he enlightened.
Explaining what AGOA means, Odonkor explained that, “AGOA is a trade agreement between the US and the Sub-Saharan Africa, so it is a trade agreement, preferential treatment to assist product line.
“There are different types of garments that enter the US and they attract different taxes, all of these are waved under the AGOA,” he explained.
Explaining further, the Ghanaian Consultant said, “The truth of the matter is that most of the garment we are doing in West Africa is tailoring, we want to upgrade our producers to garment manufacturers and that is where the challenge is.
“Garment manufacturing is to have a well thought out thing with a purpose to enable them produce quality garment in the required quantity for the US market.
“West Africa for that matter is not traditionally categorised under garment manufacturing countries. What they do is tailoring which falls under hand craft/ artisans but when you talk of industrial level you are talking about training people, setting up equipments, skills acquisition, making sure they meet production requirements for exports.
“AGOA scheme as a trade agreement, now allows manufacturers to source from China or any part of the world to source for raw materials, fabrics, buttons accessories etc and anything that goes into garment manufacturing, but ultimately the production must be done here in Nigeria for export into the US duty free.
“We have the garment manufacturing value chain. That means it is in steps; you get an order, there is the front end that discuses together with the pattern maker. There are the technicians, the quality controller, the production manager, the merchandisers.
“They discuss the product the buyers want to order; meaning they discuss the sample, the sample is provided at the front end, there is forth and back with the buyer, the sample is approved, finally setting up the production for a complete order. Whether it is 10,000 pieces, 100,000 pieces, that is garment manufacturing, not going to China to buy completed goods to sell, that is a different thing.
“Certain structures have to be in place. You must have the right equipment, the right labour force and you must have access to the larger market. Most of our people are just producing for the local market and that is a different ball game. We train garment manufacturers to build capacity, it generates money for the country and it creates more opportunity for the people.
He however stated that Nigeria is qualified to benefit from AGOA in the garment industry but whether the garment manufacturers are ready is another question to be answered.
“East Africa is gone, West Africa is still crawling though we are trying but not as much as the East Africa in taking advantage of the AGOA agreement. East Africa has put structure in place right from the beginning of AGOA. It is a Private Pubic Partnership thing.
“AGOA was last renewed in 2015 and it expires in 2025 so nobody knows what happens next. May be it will enjoy another extension, but it may end there. Hopefully we would have acquired all the skills before then,” he hoped.
In his response, Chairman of the Association of Tailors and Fashion Designers (ATFAD), Comrade Onyebuchi Nwaigwe said the workshop has provided enlightenment.
“This is an eye opener and I promise to meet the association members to discuss and share experience learnt at the workshop,” he said.