Nigeria to promote multimodal transport system for global reach in trade

 Africa’s reach to global markets through trade and enterprises needs to be driven by seamless connectivity, observers have said.
To that end, Nigeria has urged countries on the African Continent to define their plans to attain the desired goal by ensuring connectivity nationally, sub-regionally and internationally.

In this regard, the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said a multimodal, integrated and sustainable transport system was required to foster quality connectivity within the West and Central African sub-region and Africa entirely.

Sirika who spoke recently during the sub-regional workshop on Transport Cost and Regional Connectivity of African Countries held in Abuja, noted that the ports alone were not enough to connect to the markets.

He said that other modes, including road, rail and air transport, inland waterways and inland ports were essential since trade logistics now involves door-to-door or factory to warehouse movement of goods in international trade transactions.

With this, he called for the adoption of a holistic approach towards addressing the challenges of transport costs and connectivity.

According to him, such approach must take into consideration important issues as cost effectiveness of shipping services, competitiveness and survival of national and regional operators, efficiency of seaports, availability of coastal shipping services, protection of shippers’ interest and partnership with service providers.

He said that in Nigeria, an enabling environment for Public Private Partnership (PPP) was being created by designing new policies, legislation and institutional framework that would support the envisaged improvement on trade.

Siriki said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was interested in addressing the lingering challenges in trade and transport sectors of the nation’s economy.

The main policy thrust of the administration, he said, was to evolve a multimodal, integrated and sustainable transport system with greater emphasis on rail and inland waterways transportation in order to foster quality of connectivity within the system.

Noting that maritime transport remained an indispensable tool for international trade because of its mode, operation and character, Sirika said opportunities, problems and policy issues associated with it transcend national boundaries and could best be handled in an integrated regional and international level.

In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, said the challenge of poor transport connectivity had been identified as a major obstacle to the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries realizing their potential in both regional and global trade.

“With the advent of global supply chains, a new premium is being placed on being able to move goods from A to B rapidly, reliably, and cheaply. Being able to connect to what has been referred to as the “physical internet” is fast being a key determinant of a country’s competitiveness”, he said.

Noting that transportation networks represent the economic arteries of countries and regions, he said the network of transport routes and facilities all over the world could be likened to an internet.

According to him, “As observed by experts, for those able to connect, the physical internet brings access to vast new markets; but for those whose links to the global logistics web are weak, the costs of exclusion are large and growing. Whether a cause or consequence, no country has grown successfully without a large expansion of its trade.”

He pointed out that most countries in the sub-region, including Nigeria, did not own fleets, adding that with this, the sub-region was at the mercy of foreign shipping companies.

To improve the connectivity and lower the cost of transport, he called on African countries to look very seriously at the areas of ship building and vessels ownership in order to increase the number of vessels plying their waters with a view to encouraging international trade.

“We pay dearly for poor connectivity by the fact that while in developed economies freight as a percentage of the value of imports is only about 3%, in developing economies it is about 10%.

“While for Africa, the figure is estimated at a mind-bogging value of between 20% – 35%, especially for land-locked countries,” he said