President Buhari of Nigeria harps on Inter-African trade
Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari is calling on African countries to actively exploit intra-African trade in other to harness the economic benefits as well as increase their productive capacity.
The president who spoke at the opening ceremony of the 9th African Shippers’ Day organized by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) in collaboration with the Union of African Shippers’ Council (UASC) in Lagos, noted that intra-African trade in goods was recently recorded as $135 billion representing 15 percent of Africa’s total trade.
President Buhari who was represented by Nigeria’s Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye, while speaking on the theme: “African Continental Free Trade Agreement: A Veritable Platform for African Shippers to Mainstream into Global Trade,” lamented the fact that compared to other regions, intra-African trade is in sharp contrast to trade in other regions which is as high as 70 percent within the European Union and 60 percent in Asia.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary of NSC, Emmanuel Jime, stated that there is a need to sensitize various governments within the region to fast-track the dismantling of tariff and non-tariff barriers hindering trade in the region.
Jime also asserted that the reorientation and reorganization of intra-African trade should start from the West African sub-region, adding that when the sub-region gets it right, it would be easier to connect and freely trade with other regions of the continent.
Several African countries are still grappling to undo a legacy dominated by trade with their former colonial rulers rather than with each other. For example; Senegal’s biggest trading partner is France, while Gambia trades extensively with the UK. Although Senegal surrounds The Gambia, trade between the two neighbours is very low.
Railways and roads in Africa often lead toward the ports rather than link countries across regions. To fly from one African country to another, it is often easier to pass through Europe. Lower tariffs on African goods entering European Union and US markets also make export to developed countries more lucrative than to other African countries. Due to the many challenges of hindrances to trade within Africa, exports from Tunisia and Cameroon often find their way to French warehouses before being redirected to each other’s market shelves.
However, President Buhari is changing the norms as he recently commissioned the construction of a railway from Nigeria to the Republic of Niger a move many have said will revolutionalize the trans-African trade.
If African leaders want to change the narrative and do business with each order, workable trade agreements must be put in place that will undo the current bottlenecks militating against a persistent and prosperous intra- African Trade.