AfCFTA: Nigeria’s Transport Sector Faces Herculean Task To Be Ready
By Kenneth Jukpor
As the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is set to take off in January 2021, Nigeria’s transportation sector has an uphill task to be ready for this regional trade agreement.
In a bid to address some of the shortcomings in infrastructure and policies, the National Action Committee on AfCFTA for Transportation, led by the Co-Champion, Mrs. Funmi Folorunsho paid a visit to the headquarters of Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), yesterday.
While receiving the AfCFTA implementation team, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello stressed that there were lots of issues to be fixed in the sector to enable the transportation place Nigeria in an advantageous position.
Bello identified some of these crucial factors as road infrastructure, railway connectivity to inland dry ports and hinterlands, speedy cargo evacuation, automation, Single Window platform at ports, availability of fleet for ships and aircrafts, among others.
He, however, expressed optimism that Nigeria could be ready for the AfCFTA take off in January 2021, adding that the port system would be fully automated in the first quarter of 2021.
“This AfCFTA is coming up effectively in January 2021 and we have to inspect the nation’s infrastructure and policies. This agreement is good but it will only favour those who are ready and those who continue to improve their infrastructure. If I look at the state of our readiness as a nation, I know that we have a lot of work to do.”
“We have a deficit on transport infrastructure. We have the issue of roads, rail and connectivity to hinterlands. Although we have the population of over 200million, an enormous market and vast coastlines, these factors have to come together in a deliberate manner to facilitate trade under AfCFTA,” Bello said.
Bello also noted that the nation would soon record a boom in ship acquisition as the National Fleet Implementation Committee has made headway in addressing most of the factors limiting ship acquisition.
He called for a new port order where Customs examination would take place outside the ports to facilitate speedy cargo evacuation from ports, even as he commended the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for its innovative approaches in cargo clearance.
In her remarks, the Co-Champion of the Committee, Mrs. Funmi Folorunsho said, “We are hoping that after this meeting, our committee together with delegates from the Shippers’ Council would meet the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki to go forward.”
“We formally present the initial report of the workshop we had on AfCFTA with hope that going forward, you would direct us on the next steps. We know that you will drive this much more than we had.”
Bello, however, assured that Shippers Council would study and utilize the recommendations provided by the AfCFTA Implementation Committee, adding that the transportation sector wouldn’t be a drawback in the nation’s quest to maximize the gains of AfCFTA.