Director General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweale yesterday lamented on the rate of COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
Speaking at the National Diaspora Day, 2021 organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) with the theme: “Diaspora Integration for National Peace and Development”, Okonjo-Iweala said though the vaccine volume is actually increasing with the figure in June growing by 1.1 billion more doses than vaccines produced in the world in May, representing 45 per cent increase, “the bad news is that most of those doses ended up in the developed countries and the vaccine inequity continues and that is why we are trying to work with them (vaccines producers) to change the story.”
She said: “Right now, one of the things I am trying to do since we are in the pandemic and you know all the numbers we are struggling with when you have so many people vaccinated in developed countries and only a small percentage in Africa or developing countries and the issue is how do we improve the vaccine productions so we can get more?
“How do we even shift the production to African countries. The WTO has the job of monitoring export restrictions and trade facilitation measures, and what I am trying to do is to leverage that, to actually work with companies; to persuade them that ‘if we work with you to monitor supply chains, remove export restrictions, will you invest in our country?
“Just a few days ago, last Thursday, we had a conference with manufacturers of vaccines, all the CEOs of the major companies were there; from Moderna to Pfizer to AstraZeneca, J& J; the Chinese ones also. And the idea is supporting them to invest in Africa, including in Nigeria. I just want to say the President set up a taskforce headed by the minister of health to look at the issue of how we manufacture our own vaccines. All of us from the diaspora are there to see how we can help support the country to do better. From a personal point of view as well WTO point of view, these are some of the things we are doing.”
She equally revealed that the WTO is working with the International Trade Centre which is an offshoot trying to work with women to help them upgrade the quality of their products so they can enter the international market.
She said: “Last time, I met with a group of women from Oyo state who are making Shea butter and they could not export their products to US or Europe because it didn’t meet the phytosanitary standards. The WTO and the ITC worked with them to upgrade the quality; NAFDAC approved it and they have been able to export. So, this is another area we have been helping the small and medium scale business.”
Okonjo-Iweala commended Nigerians in the diaspora for contributing billions of dollars into the country’s economy which has been helping in sustaining Nigeria’s economy.
She said this has helped people in rural areas to send children to school, take of their health, run business, but asked them do more.
She said: “Wherever you are in the diaspora, there is nowhere like home. I think what you need to think about is what can I do to make things better, wherever you are either creating employment or business or civil society organisation, helping to support what the local government is trying to do.”
In her opening remarks, the Chairman/CEO, NIDCOM, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa said everything is being put in place to ensure that Nigerians in Diaspora are allowed to vote in the ongoing constitutional review.
She said: “As part of the mandate of NiDCOM, the leadership and team of the Commission is putting its best at ensuing that the issue of Diaspora Voting tops the agenda of the current Constitutional Review by the National Assembly, I assure you that both Committees on Diaspora and our Civil Society Organisations are strongly supporting Diaspora Voting to be actualized in Nigeria in the shortest possible time, especially with the contributions of the Nigerians in Diaspora to national development.”
In his keynote address, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada, assured that the federal government on its part would constantly aim to create an enabling environment by adopting policies tailored to support our citizens in Diaspora to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
He noted that we have taken a step in this direction by the approval and adoption of the National Diaspora Policy 2021 (NDP) and its Action Plans for a more holistic approach in the Nation’s engagement with Nigerians in the Diaspora.
He said the National Diaspora Policy 2021 aims to provide a comprehensive and supporting framework for facilitating Diaspora engagement in national development, empowering the Diaspora to contribute effectively, and maximizing the value of diaspora contributions to Nigeria’s development.
He assured that: “This country belongs to all of us and we must work together to ensure its growth and peace as we all have a role to play. All relevant parties are working to ensure that Diaspora Voting Rights are attained, as we believe that Nigerians in the Diaspora have the same rights and duties as Nigerians who reside in Nigeria and thus should be granted the same opportunity to decide the governance process in the Country. We may not get a perfect output at first but little by little, we would achieve our goals and objectives.”