By John Ikani
As part of efforts to reap the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) the Nigerian Government is to set champion the extension of rail lines from land-locked countries to coastal states of Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and other West African countries.
The Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki, made this known in Abuja at a Stakeholders Engagement/Sensitisation Workshop on: “Implementation Plan of African Continental Free Trade Area for the Transportation Sector in Nigeria”.
Saraki who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr Magdalene Ajani said the linkage would facilitate movement of cargoes, enhance import and export of goods to promote trade and create employment opportunities in the African continent.
She went on to note that proper galvanisation of the transportation sector through ensuring connectivity, safety, regulation of the road subsector, port reforms (electronic call-up), and deployment of the Deep Blue Project are pivotal for the realisation of AfCFTA, as these would leverage the transportation sector and country to immensely benefit from AfCFTA.
A statement signed by Eric Ojiekwe, Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Transportation, quoted Dr. Ajani as saying on behalf of the Minister that “Charting out strategies to implement the low hanging fruits that will propel the sector to achieve the various deliverables in the AfCFTA implementation plan is key”, the minister said.
On her part, the Secretary, National Office for Trade Negotiation (NOiN), Winnifred Ofili, while decrying Nigeria’s share of trade which remains low at 3%, said AfCFTA Agreement aims to create a single market for goods and services in order to deepen the economic integration of Africa.
In his presentation, the Executive Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Francis Anatogu, recognized and appreciated the preparedness for the trade Agreement as the Transportation Ministry already has a masterplan and was amongst the first to set up a Technical Working Group, although he was quick to point out that the Ministry needs to prioritize aspects of its interventions to be impactful.
According to Anatogu, “Our role in (AfCFTA National Action Committee) is to provide general expertise, project management expertise, monitoring and evaluation and others”, adding that to compete favourably, there have to be infrastructure and government policies to realise the potential of AfCFTA.