AfCFTA: Maritime stakeholders canvass for reforms, regional logistics platform
For African countries to harness the economic advantages inherent in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), there is need to improve maritime trade and create a logistic platform to drive the initiative, stakeholders have said.
Stakeholders in the maritime sector, who spoke on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the ongoing 2-day Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS), say AfCFTA, if well implemented, would spur economic growth and prosperity in the continent.
Emmanuel Jime, the executive secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), said the summit comes at a time when the National Action Committee on the Africa Continental Free Trade is mobilising the various sectors of the nation’s economy towards articulating an implementation strategy for Nigeria’s participation in the continental free trade agreement.
He said the rallying together of industry professionals and stakeholders in the sector to discuss and generate ideas that will improve maritime trade and create a logistic platform to drive the initiative, is timely.
Jime noted that trade has been a factor for economic, social and political integration of Africa and its countries for many decades, adding that AfCFTA, if well implemented, would spur economic growth and prosperity, help reduce poverty, boost job creation, eliminate trade barriers, facilitate movement of made-in-Nigeria goods, movement of vessels and engender investments creation.
He said it is imperative for Nigeria to provide a strong maritime logistics platform that will propel its participation in the continental trade.
According to him, the country as well as its stakeholders need to look into critical issues such as the gridlock on the ports access roads, lack of scanners at the ports and borders as well as address the issue of the single window, checkpoints at the nation’s major trade corridors, resistance to regulations and proffering practical solutions to address these identified challenges.
Jime states further that stakeholders need to come up with practical suggestions that will eradicate most obstacles that are threats to repositioning Nigeria as the maritime hub for Africa trade.
Mfon Usoro, chairperson, Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS), said that despite being surrounded by abundant natural resources, Africa is not in that category of ship building nations.
She noted that only one African country, Liberia, has made the region proud as the world second largest flag in fleet services, adding that Nigeria is far from being recognised in this category.
“It is so unfortunate that no Africa nation has emerged as a maritime super power; they are not on the list of the top 20 shipping nations. We are not even aspiring to be among these shipping nations. We need to address the domestic and external impediments,” said Usoro.
Lynda Chuba-Ikpeazu, chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Adminstration, said the maritime sector is pivotal to the development of any nation.
According to her, while Nigeria is blessed with human capital and coastline of almost 900 kilometres, rich in biodiversity, it is still struggling to be a maritime nation.
Chuba-Ikpeazu added that the Nigerian maritime sector, with its untapped potential is capable of driving sustainable economic growth if the right actions are taken and implemented.
She, however, noted that the National Assembly is already paying attention to strengthen the maritime sector by redeeming the legislations on Cabotage matter and shipping among others, while working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA to actualise the intent of this legislations.
“We will be engaging stakeholders for their inputs to ensuring these legislative Initiatives begin to reflect the industries expectations and realities,” said Chuba-Ikpeazu.
Mohammed Bello-Koko, the acting managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), said there is a pressing need to covert the advantages of Nigeria’s maritime endowment from potentials to actions.
According to him, Nigeria needs to be the maritime logistics hub for sustainable port services in Africa.
He said competitiveness of the nation’s ports rest on how well the nation deploys its littoral assets not just to the service of its markets, but also to address the needs of the region, especially with the landlocked countries with whom the nation shares its borders.
Amani Abou-Zeid, Africa Union (AU) commissioner for transport said African nations must pursue full implementation of AfCFTA despite the fact that global trade was endangered by the advent of COVID-19 pandemic.
Binyah Kesselly, a former commissioner & chief executive officer of the Liberia Maritime Authority, said African nations must prioritise economic base, laws/legal reforms in order to become maritime powerhouse.