The United States of America has highlighted some challenges it is facing in terms of doing business with Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan countries.

The US government stated that in spite of the robust export-import trade relationship with a total trade of $18 billion, there were certain areas Nigeria should work on.

At a press briefing in South Africa on Monday, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and the Director-General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service, Arun Kumar, stated that regional integration and logistics were part of the problems the US faced in doing business with Nigeria and other African countries.

“The US Commercial Service in Nigeria is proactively supporting the presidential initiative under the Doing Business in Africa campaign. Nigeria’s growth rate averaged about 7% over the last decade, making it one of the fastest growing regions in the world. In 2013 US goods exports were about 6.5 billion to Nigeria and we imported about 11.7 billion making for about a total trade of 18 billion dollars between the US and Nigeria.

“In terms of the barriers to increasing trade, we find two or three major areas to focus on. We believe that the more regional integration that occurs, the better it is going to be for all the countries in the region as well as for the US trade with Africa. Second would be infrastructure, which is both hard and soft. Hard infrastructure really would be transportation, roads, rail, airports and so forth. The soft infrastructure is infrastructure of how goods move across boundaries. What kinds of customs processes you have; can you have easy and standard customs procedures and other regulatory procedures across countries?” Kumar said.

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He added that the country also needed to have in place policies that reduce barriers to trade and investment between the US and Sub-Saharan African countries.

“In fact, some business executives have said the costs of logistics can be several times the cost of labour, which is not a good thing. Lower trade barriers and restrictions are very important. An inviting business climate is very important. So a number of factors are very important, which have to do both with policies, with regard to barriers and attractiveness of investment policies, and also with regard to physical things like infrastructure, are both extremely important.

“But if those are done, Africa is seen as an area of great opportunity. It’s a young and growing population. It’s a growing middle class. It’s a continent of vast natural resources. It’s a continent whose time has come,” Kumar added.

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