As part of efforts to address unfair shipping surcharges, high and unstable cost of transport to African nations, the Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) has started working to harmonize Customs duties and freight rates of homogeneous cargoes imported and exported by member countries.
This novel initiative was proposed today by UASC member countries including; Nigeria, Ghana, Angola and Cameroon at the ongoing 2-day meeting of the UASC Committee of Experts on Costs, organized by Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in Lagos.
At the event exclusively covered by News Diet, some of the products considered for data synchronization for harmonized charges include; wheat, frozen fish, cocoa, ginger and spices, cooking oil, barley, among others.
The Committee also explored the varying port costs at the countries as well as the inland freight costs, stating that ascertaining the transport cost of homogeneous products would reduce the cost of shipment to the member nations.
In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Hon. Emmanuel Jime charged the committee to analyze the maritime transport cost component in the region and ensure that all elements relating to delays, corrupt practices are eliminated from the system.
Jime, who was represented by the NSC Director of Consumer Affairs, Chief Cajetan Agu, drew the attention of the UASC to the inter relationship between the cost of transport and trade.
His words: “Transport provides mobility that ensures movement of goods from production centers to areas where they are mostly need. High transport cost translates to high landing cost for goods.”
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of transport cost in the overall cost of goods is between 35-40%, while in developed economies of Europe, Asia and America it is less than 10%.”
“We must identify the anti-competitive behaviours of multinational shipping operators in the region which is directly linked to the high cost of transport in West and Central Africa.”
The NSC boss assured that the Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to adopting the outcome of the committee’s work and to implement them in order to reduce the cost of doing business, promote efficiency and competition in our country.
Speaking with News Diet, the Freight, Logistics and Statistics Manager of Angola Shippers Council, Mr. Filipe Silva expressed optimism that the activities of the UASC Committee could open new opportunities for increased intra-African trade.
Mr. Silva lamented that non-availability of sufficient transport data at most African countries increases the transport cost and limits intra-African trade.
He also identified the lack African ship-owners and shipping lines to be responsible for high cost of shipping to African nations, even as he noted that freight forwarders charge between 3% to 5% to allow for negotiation and competition in Angola.
On his part, the Head of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at Ghana Shippers Authority, Mr. Emmanuel Arku agreed that cargoes of similar characteristics should have similar Customs duties and freight rates.
The Ghanaian representative, however, noted that terminal operators fares may differ based on other economic and regulatory factors peculiar to the respective nations
The Committee also resolved to hold meetings every six weeks in a bid to enhance synergy and reduce the transport cost to member nations.
Some terms of reference for the Committee include; to determine the components of shipping and other logistics costs in the supply chain in West and Central Africa; identify all surcharges and tariff headings applicable in the subregion; confirm the jurisdiction or otherwise of all surcharges and tariff headings; identify the factors responsible for delays as well as high cargo clearance cost in the subregion; among others.