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AfCFTA national action still silent on transportation as FG Okays takeoff

Just as President Muhammadu Buhari has established a national action committee to begin the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), there are strong indications that the deficiencies in the nation’s logistics and transportation sector are yet to be fixed ahead of takeoff.

Only recently, a number of stakeholders in the nation’s maritime and aviation sectors raised an issue of urgent importance, saying that by the way and manner the AfCFTA is structured, Nigeria may be outsmarted by some African economies that had long improved their shipping and aviation infrastructures.

A new report by the UN showed that only South Africa, Egypt, Morocco may corner all the gains that will come from moving continental trade on the sea based on their well structured and facilitated shipping industry that is backed by national carriers.

On airborne goods, economies like Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Morocco, Egypt, Benin Republic, Rwanda, Tunisia and Cameroon will earn more based on their well structured aviation industry.

Unfortunately, both in the sea and air, Nigeria is missing as there is no national carriers to either move Nigerian goods to other African countries or bring in cargoes from AU states.

Business Hilights recalls that efforts made by the former and returning Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi to float another national shipping line failed even as the introduction of Nigeria Air by the former and also returning Minister of State for Aviation, Capt. Hadi Sirika is still missing in the radar of the Federal Executive Council as Amaechi revealed in his valedictory press conference that Nigeria Air was received with discordant voices at FEC.

Though the agreement, as signed by President Buhari in Niger Rep recently is yet to be ratified by the National Assembly, the presidency said in a statement that “The National Action Committee will comprise representatives of ministries and agencies with competent and relevant jurisdiction, and selected stakeholder groups from the private sector and the civil society to coordinate the implementation of all the AfCFTA readiness interventions.

“NAC will upon inauguration, undertake a process of engagement with stakeholders to sensitise them to the opportunities and challenges of AfCFTA, with preparedness plans for Nigerian economy.”

The Presidency recalled that before Buhari signed the AfCFTA document, he had approved the recommendations of the Committee on Impact and Readiness Assessment of the AfCFTA Agreement, which he inaugurated in October 2018 and received its report on June 27 this year.

Though the presidential statement claimed that the presidential committee’s report was “comprehensive, analytical, with the full engagement of stakeholders in the Nigerian economy,” some contacted aviation and maritime stakeholders expressed fears on how Nigeria will gain form movement of goods across Africa when there is no functional national carriers and indigenous logistics players are still struggling to survive due to low capacities.