In order to enable Nigeria to benefit fully from the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) and take advantage of the opportunities it provides, the Nigerian ports are undergoing infrastructure reforms.
The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, stated that this would ensure smooth transmission of goods and investments through the ports. According to her, it would boost the trade relationship between Nigeria and other countries.
Why it matters: Infrastructure upgrade creates opportunities for the nation. The deplorable state of the ports in Nigeria has become a trade barrier, preventing connectivity, which is costly to companies depending on the ports for importing and exporting of goods. Bala-Usman said with this removed, and dredging of seaports, as well as the elimination of corruption, and manual processes in the sector, enormous opportunities would be recorded.
Bala-Usman, who disclosed the infrastructure reforms at the ports during the 2019 International Ports and Terminal (NIMPORT) Conference and Expo, said the changeover would engender effectiveness in Nigeria when the AfCFTA comes into full effect.
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“Investment in infrastructure will give the opportunity to link critical hinterlands with rails, waterways, rehabilitation of roads leading to the ports and deliberate policies put in place to improve the transport sector.
“All the investments in infrastructure with the signing of the AfCFTA are aimed at integrating the economy of the country and removing barriers,” she told The Nation.
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Other challenges confronting AfCFTA: Aside from the port issue, the road network is another problem for traders in Nigeria. Both the port and road connectivity have cost companies millions of naira. President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote disclosed late last month that his company lost N25 billion to the poor state of Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. A year before (2018), Dangote Group had disclosed that the salt and sugar arm of the group lost about N2 billion monthly which was caused by the perennial traffic gridlocks on the Apapa ports road.
Meanwhile, as reported by Nairametrics, NASCON Allied Industries Plc, one of the subsidiaries of Dangote Industries Limited, has moved some of its operations away from Apapa to Oregun and Port Harcourt. While disclosing the development, the company’s Managing Director, Paul Farrer, said the decision to move its operations was in response to the lingering gridlock in Apapa.
Farrer said the Apapa gridlock was one of the key risks to the company’s business last year. He added that the Apapa gridlock affected the movement of raw materials to Oregun, timely delivery of finished goods to customers and increased turn-around time of the company’s trucks. So, if the deplorable road network and port congestion continue, AfCFTA will hold no benefit for Nigeria’s economy.