By Chiazo Ogbolu
Lagos, Nov. 23, 2020 Amb. Mariam Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, said on Monday that transportation was an indispensable sector to maximising the potentialities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Katagum made the declaration at the AfCFTA Nigeria Strategic Workshop Series II webinar with the theme: “’Nigeria – the Transportation Hub for Africa’’.
According to Katagum, the workshop, organised by the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, is to chart Nigeria’s strategy for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“There is need to extend the presence of transportation across Africa and have regional linkages to take advantage of logistics infrastructure that already exists.
“There is also the need to build cross-border relationship, identify what needs to be done and who should do what, to make African trade to blossom.
“Transportation is key to the competitiveness of our trade and so we need to maximise the opportunity for economic growth,’’ she said.
The minister noted that there was the need to explore innovative approaches to grow the logistics infrastructure and in so doing, there was the need to create local content.
She warned that there would be challenges in the implementation, but urged stakeholders to be committed to make things work.
She urged stakeholders to remember that as members of the same team, Team Nigeria, they needed to work together to chart Nigeria’s strategy.
In his contribution, Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, said that the sector had produced a roadmap that would help the aviation industry to benefit maximally from AfCFTA.
“The roadmap entails airport concession, establishing of a national carrier, designation of relevant airports as free trade zone all to enhance the implementation of AfCFTA.
“An efficient transport system will facilitate movement of goods and services, promote and create business opportunities, create tourism and generate employment,’’ he said.
In another contribution, Mr Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, said that Nigeria owns four out of the nine Trans-African Highways.
He said that the roads were in various stages of development, either being expanded or constructed to aid trade facilitation and AfCFTA implementation.
Speaking on “AfCFTA – Opportunity or Threat’’, Mr Aliyu Abubakar, Director at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investments said that Nigeria needed to diversify its export base.
According to him, export base diversification is critical to reduce the volatile impact of oil prices on the country’s economic growth.
He listed some threats that needed to be tackled as: trade deflection due to weak institutional capacity and political will to enforce trade rules, government revenue loss and low competitiveness among others.
Prof. Bamidele Badejo of the Department of Geography, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, said in his contribution that the current state of transportation in Nigeria provided an opportunity to explore the AfCFTA.
He called for the cooperation of all stakeholders and the adoption of all modes of transportation for Nigeria to benefit maximally from the AfCFTA.