Mr. Babatunde Faleke is the Regional Coordinator (South West) of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). The organisaion recently concluded a one day sensitisation workshop on the utilisation of the AGOA Visa Stamp for exporters of garments and apparel to the US market in its Abuja Headquarters office. Faleke in this interview told journalists after the event that Nigerian garment manufacturers would do well to take advantage of the AGOS Visa Stamp with which they could export to the US duty free. He also agreed that smugglers of second hand garments into the country are not helping local manufacturers. He however advised local manufacturers to make their products of high quality and competitive enough to checkmate the secondhand garment market operating in Nigeria. ABEEB ALAWIYE was at the event in Abuja and here reports. Excerpts:
We like you to explain why the AGOA Visa Stamp is so important because a lot of informal export of garment and apparels still take place with it.
AGOA Vista Stamp is very important because it allows you to export duty free to America because duty on apparel to America ranges from 8% to 32%. So be that as it may, the AGOA Visa Stamp if you follow the procedure allows you to export to the USA duty free. So if you export duty free it gives you comparative advantage over those who are not qualified to export under AGOA. Don’t forget AGOA too has qualification. Nigeria is qualified to export under AGOA among other Sub-Saharan states. It is important because it makes you to export under AGOA, it open doors for you, it makes you tap into the large international market.
What are the prerequisites to export under AGOA?
The prerequisite is that you must be a player there, and again you must have certificate of origin, you must be AGOA compliance, your documentation must be right. A lot of things you have to do under AGOA which we are telling them at the workshop. You need to do it right, get your documentation right, quote the ATS Code properly, quote everything properly. There are lots of issues, documentation is what is important then let the Nigerian Customs stamp your product as AGOA compliance.
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You mean if they are able to stamp their products with the Nigerian Customs there is an advantage?
Yes, it is the stamp on your invoice that makes you qualified under AGOA. Without the stamp from Customs it is not categorized as export under AGOA.
As much as garment manufacturers are being encouraged through workshops like this, markets for second hand garments are equally thriving and killing the local industry. What do you think is the way out?
The way out is that we have to improve on quality because people say that those secondhand garments are more qualitative so every player in the industry must need to be conscious of quality. Everybody wants things to wear, they want something that is durable and cheap so also we need to do the right thing; make the price competitive, let the quality be good and honestly, we would get there. Again government is not encouraging second hand clothing but people are still smuggling it in.
What do you think are the challenges so far?
The challenges are that we don’t have hub. The capacity to produce en-masse is lacking in the country. If we have a 100,000 shirt order now how many people can meet it within the specified time? Efficiency is low, skill gap is there, energy cost of production is low, a lot of challenges are there.