Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has encouraged African nations to deepen regional integration to scale up supply capacity and build regional value chain in a bid to enhance the continent’s economic fortunes with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Buhari stated this at the opening ceremony of the 9th African Shippers’ Day organized by Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in collaboration with the Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) in Lagos, today.
At the event themed: “African Continental Free Trade Agreement: A Veritable Platform for African Shippers to Mainstream into Global Trade,” the President, who was represented by the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye, noted that as at 2017, intra-African trade in goods was $135 billion representing 15% of Africa’s total trade, lamenting the sharp contrast to trade in other regions which is as high as 70% within the European Union and 60% in Asia.
According to him, the imposition of export bans especially on food items by some countries and the disruption of global supply chain at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic showed how exposed and vulnerable African countries are because of limited productive capacity and a lack of regional value chain.
His words: “The global economy is a source of growth that African economies cannot afford to ignore. While African exports of goods and services have seen their fastest growth in the past decade, the volumes remain low at just 3 percent of global trade. African countries must therefore expand and diversify their participation in international trade and global value chains to create wealth, generate employment and to reduce poverty on a large scale as well as trans form their economies. Achieving this lofty economic objective I believe is one of the major reasons that informed the birthing of the AfCFTA.”
“The establishment of the AfCFTA presents major opportunities of production and exports, creates employment and limits the impact of commodity price volatility on the economies of various African countries. AFCFTA is expected to bring about a number of benefits to producers, consumers and countries alike. However, for AFCFTA to have a positive influence on long-term investment in productive capacities, African government must develop appropriate supporting policies, build the requisite infrastructure and ensure an educated workforce. We will need to actively promote productive employment and decent workplace, women’s empowerment and food security and reduction in inequalities.”
He explained that in Nigeria, AFCFTA is already seen as a game-changer to stimulate intra-African trade because more ambitious trade liberalization signifies greater expansion of Nigerian exports to its African partners.
In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Hon. Emmanuel Jime, stressed that there is a need to sensitize various governments within the region to fast-track the dismantling of tariff and non-tariff barriers hindering trade in the region.
Jime also asserted that the reorientation and reorganization of intra-African trade should start from the West African sub-region, adding that when the sub-region gets it right, it would be easier to connect and freely trade with other regions of the continent.
Describing transportation as a crucial vehicle for AfCFTA to thrive, he added that: “Africa needs to create smooth integration of transport Infrastructures and trade policies as well as the required awareness among the economic operators in the subregion.”
Also speaking, the Secretary General of Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control for West and Central African Region, Capt. Sunday Umoren emphasized on the need to have African fleet to convey goods to be traded within the region.
His words: “AfCFTA came at the right time and we have this platform binding us together but we need to act fast and snatch the moment. Nothing stops this region from having a strong ship owing capacity, thus eliminating the burden and impact of high freight rate from foreign ships.”
Umoren assured that the Abuja MoU would play its role as part of due diligence in supporting nations in engaging the carrier with respect to effective port state regulations in ensuring the safe carriage and delivery of goods with minimal issues.
The event was attended by bigwigs in the nation’s transport sector and African leaders including; the Secretary General of UASC, Mr. Giscard Lilian Ogoula; Secretary General, African Ship-owners Association (ASA), Mrs. Funmi Folorunsho; President of Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIOTA), Mr. Segun Obayendo; Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu; Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh OFR; Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko.
Chief Executive, Morbod Group, Barr. (Mrs.) Margaret Orakwusi; President, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung; Chief Executive, Lelook Group, Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa; Convener, Oil Trading Logistics (OTL) Africa Downstream Week, Dr. Emeka Akabogu; Mr. Mike Igbokwe (SAN); Executive Secretary, Institute of Export Operations Management (IEOM), Mr. Ofon Udofia; Founder, Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT), Hajia Aisha Ali-Ibrahim; among others.