The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says port decongestion and transformation of Nigeria into Africa’s most efficient trading nation will enhance the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in the port.
The Controller General of Customs (CGC), Comptroller Adewale Adeniyi, said this at the 43rd Annual Council Meeting and 18th Roundtable of Managing Directors/Exhibition of the Port Management Association of West and Central African (PMAWCA).
The meeting hosted by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Lagos had the theme: ‘The Role of Ports in the African Continental Free Trade Area.’
Adeniyi added that enforcement of the Presidential Directive for the 48-hour clearance of goods at seaports in accordance with Executive Order 001 would enhance AfCFTA benefits.
“Furthermore, we are redefining performance measures for key government agencies to emphasise trade facilitation, implementing the National Single Window trading platform. Also is the launching of a comprehensive transformational program to support exports development,” he said.
He noted that the establishment of a ministry in charge of blue economy and marine by the current administration would unlock the vast potential within the maritime sector and drive the nation’s economic prosperity.
“This step is not only in line with a commitment to harness the wealth of opportunities in trade but also aligns perfectly with our dedication to achieving the objectives of continental free trade. It is a powerful reminder that in this era of increased collaboration and interdependence, customs and maritime industry must work hand in hand to ensure the overall success of these initiatives,” he said.
He also stressed the need to ensure enhanced predictability for business and customs to ensure that only qualifying goods participate in the agreement.
“Separation of certification from the regular procedure, certifications, and associated verification should now occur before export clearance, streamlining processes, and ensuring that only eligible goods receive necessary documentation,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr Olusegun Awolowo, the Executive Secretary of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, called for investment in infrastructure to position West and Central Africa as a HUD.
According to Awolowo, developing and upgrading port facilities, including modernizing terminals, enhancing connectivity through road and rail networks, and investing in technological advancements to facilitate efficient cargo handling and transit are needed.
“There is a need to encourage closer collaboration among West and Central African countries to align regulations and standards across the region to minimize non-trade barriers, ensuring a consistent and smooth operational environment for businesses in the maritime sector.
I recommend collaborations among member states, international organizations, and private sector entities to leverage expertise, resources, and best practices for the development of the blue economy.
Encouraging public-private partnerships can accelerate infrastructure development and technology adoption,” he said.
Ms Demitta Gyang, Senior Advisor, Customs Administration, AfCFTA, noted that AfCFTA would enable Africa to create volumes to be carried by the transport and logistics sector.
According to her, there is a need to attract investment to support the volume that will boost the economy.
“African regions had achieved 92 percent on roles of origin. The transport sector stands to benefit most because of the volume that will be moved from one point to another and so this agreement is a commitment by member states,” she said.
Also speaking, Mr Martin Boguikouma, President of PMAWCA, urged African countries to address challenges facing the region to be able to receive the new volume of traffic that would emerge due to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Boguikouma listed ways to solve the challenges, adding that the solution included collaboration between customs and port authorities to harmonize customs procedures.
“We need to ensure capacity building of all seaports and customs officials, sensitize them on how to address cross border trade.
“There is a need to work on reducing transport cost, investing in efficient transport infrastructure, maritime safety through enhanced interstate cooperation,” he said.
He noted that in Gabon, they had put in place things that would ensure that free trade became a success.
The PMAWCA president said that signing a Memorandum of Understanding on trade facilitation, and harmonized customs duty, which was very important for the AfCFTA, could aid in making free trade successful.
“We have put in place a National Commission for Trade Facilitation and the commission has three modules which are operationalization of trade standard, adoption of a roadmap for trade facilitation, and a regulatory framework,” he said.
Source: Shipping Position