FG urges West/Central African countries to address high airfare costs

Posted by News Express | 18 March 2016 | 2,863 times

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The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, on Thursday urged West Central Africa countries to address the challenges of high transport costs and poor connectivity facing economies in the sub-region.

Sirika made the disclosure at a two-day Sub-Regional Workshop on ‘Transport Costs and Connectivity of West and Central Africa Countries’ being held in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that there was also a Sensitisation Seminar on ‘International Maritime Organisation (IMO’s) SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Rules on Container Weighing and Payment Terms,’ organised by the Union of African Shippers' Council (UASC).

The minister urged the Union African Shippers’ Council (UASC) to adopt a holistic transport policy to address the challenges and other issues that hindered the competiveness of the sub-region in international trade.

Sirika suggested an integrated and sustainable transport system with emphasis on rail and inland waterways transportation to foster quality connectivity within the system.

The minister said that an enabling environment for Public Private Partnership (PPP) should be created by designing new policies, legislation and institutional framework that would support the maritime sector.

Sirika said that Nigeria was interested in the workshop because of the national development through economic growth which topped the agenda of the present administration as enshrined in the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said that maritime transport was an indispensable tool for international trade due to its mode of operation and character.

“The opportunities, problems and policy issues associated with it (maritime) transcend national, regional and international level.

“Efficiency in shipping is closely interlinked with ports and land transport services.

“That is why the world's major ports are located close to the main international shipping routes that transverse the East-West global axis.”

He said that Africa's intra-region liner shipping connected African countries with Europe, Asia and the Americans.

Sirika said that access to shipping service was a crucial aspect of competitiveness and determined the geography of the trade.

“The ports alone are not enough for us to connect to markets; other modes of transport (road, rail, air transport, inland waterways and inland ports) are essential.”

According to him, trade logistics now involve door-to-door or factory to warehouse movement of goods in international trade transaction.

Sirika, however, said that President Buhari was eager, looking forward to the resolutions of the workshop in order to address the challenges militating against the development of economies of countries participating at the workshop.

In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, said that more than 50 per cent of trade from Asia to West bypassed the sub-region in spite of going through Africa’s coastline.

Bello said that almost in all the regions, import and exports were transported by foreign ships to and from sub-regional countries.

“Most countries in the sub-region including Nigeria, do not own fleets and we are at the mercy of foreign shipping companies.

“To improve connectivity and lower the cost of transport, therefore, we need to look very seriously at the area of ship building and vessels ownership; in order to increase the number of vessels plying our waters, with a view of encouraging international trade.”

He explained that the sub-region had been paying dearly for poor connectivity.

“By the fact that, while in developed economies freight as a percentage of the value of imports was only about 3 per cent, in developing economies, it was about 10 per cent.”

Bello said developing countries, especially Africa and Oceania, paid about 40 to 70 per cent more for transportation of their imports than developed countries.

Bello said that the workshop was a major event of the Union of African Shippers’ Council meant to address the activities of the union for 2016.

He said that the Nigerian Shippers' Council was one of the pillars of the union, adding that the NSC had been the Chairman of the Union's Standing Committee.

Bello said that the role of the NSC in UASC was pivotal because Nigeria, being the largest economy in the West and Central Africa, generated about 60 per cent of the trade of the sub-region.

He, however, said that poor transport connectivity had been identified as a major obstacle to the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries in realising their potential in both regional and global trade. (NAN)

•Photo shows Hadi Sirika.


Source: News Express

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