By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA- As part of effort to reap the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, the federal government is to set champion the extension of rail lines from land-locked countries to coastal states of Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and other African countries.
Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, who stated this in Abuja at a stakeholders engagement/sensitization workshop on, “Implementation Plan of African Continental Free Trade Area for the transportation sector in Nigeria”, said the development would facilitate movement of cargoes, enhance import and export of goods to promote trade and create employment opportunities in the African continent.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, Sen. Saraki noted a total revamp of the transport sector through ensuring connectivity, safety, regulation of the road sub-sector, port reforms (electronic call-up), deployment of the Deep Blue Project, are necessary for the realization of 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.”
Saraki further stressed the need for stakeholders to vigorously pursue the buy-in for AfCFTA, at a time the Ministry is saddled with the responsibility of providing seamless transportation system that will facilitate both domestic and regional trade, thereby diversifying the economy and increasing the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of the nation.
She described the gesture by government as a milestone in the quest for regional development and integration of Africa, saying the major objective of the agreement is to boost intra – African trade through the elimination of tariffs and free movement of goods and services within member states.
According to Dr. Ajani, AfCFTA holds the promise of lifting millions out of poverty and improving the well – being of all through enhanced market access opportunities, saying, “the current transport sector and AfCTA are like Siamese twins that cannot do without another”, pointing out that there are, however, challenges that must be addressed for the sector to become transportation hub of Africa.
Also speaking, Secretary, National Office for Trade Negotiation, NOiN, Winnifred Ofili, while decrying Nigeria’s share of trade which remains low at 3 per cent, said AfCFTA aims to create a single market for goods and services in order to deepen the economic integration of the continent.
ln his presentation, executive secretary, national action committee on AfCFTA, Francis Anatogu, appreciated the preparedness for the trade agreement as the Transportation Ministry already has a master plan and was amongst the first to set up a Technical Working Group, adding however that Ministry needs to prioritize aspects of its interventions to make expected impact.