• Leaders decry trade deficit, untapped potential
• Nigeria offers to lead change crusade
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has disclosed that there is no single African carrier among the 35 ship-owner countries which constitute about 95 per cent of global shipping trade.
IMO’s Secretary General, Kitack Lim, who dropped the hint yesterday at the third yearly conference of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) in Abuja, noted: “Of the 35 ship-owning countries in the world, holding approximately 95 per cent of global shipping tonnage, none is from the African continent.”
He added: “In a share of ownership by country grouping, developing countries in Africa own only 1.23 per cent while their counterparts in Asia own 36.24 per cent. Africa represents only 0.9 per cent of shipping yard and marine-related industries.”
The revelation came as maritime administrators expressed dismay that the continent is not harnessing its rich shipping potential, leading to a massive trade deficit and unhealthy economies.
It was learnt that trade between Africa and the rest of the world has increased by 200 per cent since year 2000. But the continent and its Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have recorded far less intra-regional trade than most other regions of the world.
Also, about $1.3 billion was estimated to have been lost to untapped fishing resources within the West African coast alone.Worried about the situation, President Muhammadu Buhari, who opened the event, organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said Nigeria was determined to take the lead in revolutionising the continent’s maritime sector.
He revealed that policies and strategies had been put in place to ensure trade facilitation and boost activities on the sea.Represented by his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the president noted: “Enormous untapped potential for the making of a strong African economy is embedded in blue economy.”
Admitting that regulatory and legal frameworks to properly manage maritime resources are still inadequate, Buhari stated that “here in Nigeria we have taken steps to tackle some of the issues peculiar to us … We have set up an engagement to resolve the contentious issues in the Niger Delta which of course is part of Gulf of Guinea.”
He went on: “We recently approved a new maritime security architecture and infrastructure to be jointly coordinated by NIMASA, the National Security Adviser and the Federal Ministry of Transport. We have given the required support to the navy so that they can work with others within our sub-region to effectively police our waters. This arrangement will also contribute in eliminating piracy in our domain.”
He pledged that Nigeria would promote Africa’s effective participation in the Council of IMO, adding that this would only be possible if the continent speaks with one voice.The president formally unveiled a new NIMASA logo in the presence of about 32 African maritime nations, saying it was part of the reforms in the agency.
The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, assured the participants that Nigeria would continually contribute to the growth of the sector continentally and globally.
His words: “It is regrettable that despite Africa’s enormous maritime endowment, we remain susceptible to a raft of challenges. These include significant share of cargo, low tonnage, piracy, sea robbery, undeclared and unregulated fishing and environmental degradation. Worse still, there is no African flagged vessels taking cargoes and our waterways still wallow in servitude.
“The African human capacity is greatly underdeveloped, leaving us to rely on foreigners to drive our industry. There is also a near absence of trained coastguards to monitor our maritime domain.”
Amaechi noted that Nigeria had stepped up efforts to make her a maritime hub by embarking on comprehensive port reforms and subjecting maritime administration to the mandatory IMASAS audit, digitalising all processes in the sector as well as upgrading port infrastructure and linking the rail network.
The Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, said the country accounts for over 60 per cent of the total seaborne traffic in volume and value in West and Central Africa.
According to him, Nigeria adorns all continental maritime initiatives and charters that seek to promote the development of Africa.“We are geo-strategically located as a major littoral state in the Gulf of Guinea. By all estimation, we are a leader, high on the crest of maritime prosperity. So, hosting a conference of the continent’s maritime administrators is overdue,” Peterside stated.