Nigeria, others intensify efforts to harness AfCFTA potential
Nigeria and other countries in West and Central Africa have intensified moves to harness potential inherent in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to boost regional and global trade.
The United Nations Commission for Africa had estimated that AfCFTA would expand the size of Africa’s economy to $29 trillion by 2050 and increase intra-African trade to 52.3 per cent from the current 11 per cent.
Also, the share of Africa in global trade is expected to double from the current three per cent to six with the implementation of the agreement.
Stakeholders converged in Lagos yesterday for the ninth African Shippers Day organised by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the United African Shippers’ Council (UASC) to discuss the theme: ‘African Continental Free Trade Agreement: A Veritable Platform for African Shippers to Mainstream into Global Trade.”
Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime, said countries in the West and Central Africa sub-region must fast-track the dismantling of various tariff and non-tariff barriers hindering intra-Africa trade to harness the potential inherent in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Jime said African leaders must embrace tariff liberalisation for intra-African trade to thrive.
According to him, trading within African countries is currently at a paltry 11 per cent, while global trade is at a ridiculous three per cent. The Shippers Council’s boss, however, stated that if the potential inherent in intra-African trade were effectively harnessed, the African economy would expand by 52.3 per cent.
He advised that the re-orientation and re-organisation of intra-African trade should start from the West and Central Africa sub-region. He said when the sub-region gets it right, it would be much easier to connect and freely trade with other regions of the continent.
“When adequate measures are put in place to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers that hamper trading between countries in the continent, then we will be on our way to achieving greater economic development for the continent,” he said.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo said a functional transportation sector is instrumental to the realisation of the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. He said the sector is the most critical in implementing trade facilitation, enhancing regional integration and is key to every other AfCFTA protocol.
Sambo said any country that can dominate the shipping industry as well as, efficient transport infrastructure and tonnage capacity, will reap a larger share of the benefits accruing from the new arrangement and eventually become the major gateway to Africa.
While saying Federal Government intends to make Nigeria one of such gateways, Buhari called on other governments in Africa to invest in infrastructural development to reap from this huge trade arrangement.
Secretary-General of the Memorandum of Understanding On Port State Control for West and Central African Region, Sunday Umoren, said shipping’s ability to offer economic and efficient long-distance transport puts it at the centre of the world economy.
According to the International Chamber of Shipping, about 11 billion tons of goods are transported by ships each year, which Umoren said represents an impressive 1.5 tons per person based on the current global population.
He said shipping helps ensure that the benefits of trade and commerce are more evenly spread as no country is entirely self-sufficient due to spatial disparity, but relies on maritime trade to sell what it has and buy what it needs.
“May I remind you of the need not to ignore the big role of the carriers (vessels and their owners) and their part in delivering on AfCFTA. This is where Abuja MoU comes in as part of due diligence before engaging the carrier. We are ready to partner with you in ensuring the safe carriage and delivery of goods with minimal issues relating to safe and responsible maritime transportation,” he said.
Managing Director, of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, said trade facilitation through expert advice, shipping regulations, vessel and freight information will go a long way in helping shippers within the African Continent maneuver favorably, through the rough waters of global shipping.
He said Nigeria is blessed with a large expanse of inland waterways traversing about 28 states of the country, which, when properly harnessed, will enhance trade and movement of economic goods from the hinterland to the urban areas and vice versa.
He said the contribution of inland waterways transportation to the overall accomplishment of the objective of AfCFTA must be acknowledged considering its huge advantage of cost-effectiveness and efficiency in freight transportation.
Also speaking, the Managing Director, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the theme of the event is a clarion call to intensify the synergies necessary to take maximum advantage of the new vistas of opportunities inherent in AfCFTA Agreement.
He said the commencement of AfCFTA symbolises a lot of positives, as it provides a launch pad for the actualisation of Nigeria’s strategic intent of becoming the maritime logistics hub for sustainable ports services in Africa.
“With the strategic leverage that AfCFTA offers in mind and deriving from our realisation that automation remains the most veritable tool for assuring Port efficiency, we have been working assiduously under the technical guidance of the International Maritime Organisation to deploy the Port Community System (PCS), which will enable us to respond squarely to the dictates of global trade facilitation.
“Indeed, we are convinced that the PCS will provide the backbone for the National Single Window, which is necessary to deepen our efficiencies across the board as a maritime nation,” he said.