Ms Dabney Shall-Holma, Chair of Sealink’s Implementation Committee, says underutilization of Africa’s waterways is affecting its ability to deepen trade.
She said this during an interview with the Nigeria News Agency (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.
Shall-Holma said deepening trade involves using every available node, link and mode of transportation to ensure that goods move from place to place.
According to her, there are endless opportunities in the field of water transport for goods that can be opened up to improve trade in Africa.
She said Sealink was considering tapping the rivers that could be used for transporting goods across Africa.
She said the Nile, about 6,650 nautical miles long, flowed as far as Ethiopia and sometimes beyond, with the Blue Nile and White Nile flowing into it.
“So these are tributaries that actually flow into the Nile. If we open this, we have already started talking to Zambezi and Tanzania.
“If we open that up and Egypt echoes development, you know what will happen to the entire eastern flank of Africa.
“In West Africa, we have the Congo River which is just below us and the Niger River. The Niger River is a very long river, it is in fact only shorter than the Nile.
“We are therefore proud to be sitting on the Niger River and we must seize this opportunity because it is an opportunity that has been with us.
“The British came and used it for over 100 years. But we have just arrived and we are looking at the fish and the tilapia and the croakers that are in the river.
“And we don’t know that it can open a new window, a very fresh window for growth and development. Nothing makes a nation grow like connectivity and accessibility.
She also indicated that a feasibility study was carried out on the coast of Namibia to Senegal in the West and Central Africa sub-region.
In addition, it was possible to link some of the islands located on the Atlantic Ocean to improve trade along this region.
She added that it would be more profitable for any maritime link to take care of all the cargo that it could take over the Atlantic Ocean.
This, she said, prompted the organization to focus on Cape Verde in the North Atlantic, Sao Tome and Principe and then Equatorial Guinea, in the Gulf of Guinea.
This, she said, was done to confirm the veracity of claims by importers and exporters that cargoes leaving West Africa were going elsewhere for transhipment.
According to the president, this will amount to doubling or tripling the costs.
She said, however, that most countries in the West and Central Africa sub-region are now very proud to claim that they have better ports and infrastructure.
Shall-Holma added that they have also improved their logistics and their value chains are close to 50-60%.
NAN reports that the Sealink project is a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement established to promote the development of a regional shipping company that would remove bottlenecks and non-tariff measures along the ECOWAS trade corridor.
It was designed around the need of importers, exporters and shippers to create a value chain that would support Nigeria’s economy and develop additional networks to trade with other African countries. (NAN)