David Oladimeji |
Maritime industry watchers have identified efficiency in shipping logistics as the bedrock for the successful implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement in Nigeria.
Shipping, port connectivity, port upgrade, infrastructure development, vessel ownership, simplified processes at the border and trained security personnel are the necessary paraphernalia needed for ACFTA to have a positive effect on the economy.
The industry experts arrived at this position at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce International Arbitration Centre round table meeting themed “Maritime Business and Disputes”, in Lagos.
Speaking at the event, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello, said failure in infrastructural development will impede the growth of maritime economy and the seamless implementation of the AFCTA regime. He further explained that for efficient transportation of goods, proper road and rail networks linking the seaports to the hinterlands and other delivery points must be put in place. According to him, “connectivity is of essence to efficient transportation of goods.”
Shedding more light, Bello noted that the Shippers’ Council was developing a framework for the establishment of a Maritime Development Bank to address the continent’s shipping and maritime infrastructure deficits.
He said “It is important that we institute a development bank that will make funds and finance readily available for maritime infrastructure and regional integration”.
Bello was also of the opinion that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has an important role to play in the effective operation and implementation of the Africa Continental Trade Area in Nigeria.
He said as the coordinator of maritime investments in Nigeria, it is expected that the NSC pays attention to infrastructure, linkages and port connectivity among African nations in order to harness the benefits of the agreement.
In his contribution, Assistant Chief Negotiator, Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiations, Tola Onayemi, emphasized that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area creates a single market for goods and services in Africa and it will serve as a catalyst to foster trade among African countries.
He noted that with over 1.5 billion people on the continent and a whooping 3 trillion dollars in potential revenue, the need to eliminate non-trade barriers to facilitate transnational trade in Africa could not be overemphasized.
He also stressed the need to solve maritime logistics challenges earlier identified by the scribe of the Shippers’ Council. He said that the economic growth expected after the implementation of the ACFTA is hinged on the progress we make in streamlining logistics across the continent.
According to him, the regulatory agents at various ports should be trained to professionally dispatch their duties, so as to enhance security and surveillance of the Nigerian waters.
Furthermore, he stated that the cumbersome and duplicated cargo clearing processes at the seaports will negatively affect the impact of the ACFTA on the maritime economy.
Questioning the series of levies and taxes associated with the cargo clearing process at Nigerian ports and borders, he opined that the levies are exuberant and are duplicated in various forms. Also, he noted that the financial and logistics constraints associated with shipping goods within Africa are as a result of a poor history of trading among countries on the continent.
Onayemi said “if adequate logistics isn’t put in place there will be no room for trading. Absence of proper logistics will bar Nigeria from achieving the trade growth it desires”.
Owing to the fact that about 90% of goods in Nigeria are still taxied via the sea-ports, Onayemi stressed the need for shippers to be more confident in the system, noting that infrastructure has to be seamless and ports have to be more efficient.
In addition, he expressed the need to build new ports and to revitalize the moribund ports in view of the emerging markets and trade patterns.
Finally, he said that shippers need to understand that there is good business in Nigeria. The Africa Continent Free Trade Area has broken down barriers enabling SMEs to trade and flourish.
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