Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
The Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) and African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) have announced a US$750,000 grant to support the charting of the main channel of the Niger-Benue River in Nigeria, as part of the Regional Sealink Project, which aims to bridge the gap in maritime transport infrastructure and improve trade connectivity in West Africa.
Afreximbank provided a grant of US$350,000 to supplement the US$450,000 made available by NEXIM, thus completing the financing of the bathymetric survey and hydrographic and hydrological studies of the lower Niger-Benue River. The studies will be undertaken under a joint collaboration framework between the Nigerian Navy Hydrography Department, Nigeria’s National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Sealink Consortium Partners.
The completion of the studies will support the early commencement of the inland waterways operations planned under the Regional Sealink Project, by enabling the development of the inland waterways navigation chart, as well as river ports and anchorage plans that will facilitate both bulk commodities and general cargo shipping, thereby boosting Nigeria’s bulk commodities trade and exports.
The Regional Sealink Project is a trade facilitation initiative designed to address the critical logistics infrastructure gap towards facilitating and deepening inland and intra-coastal waterways operations. It was adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission as one of its seven priority projects under the ECOWAS Community Development Programmes. Its implementation is expected to mitigate some of the main barriers to regional integration and the growth of cross-border trade, especially trade in large volumes of bulk commodities.
Inland waterways are a key transport mode that plays a vital role in facilitating the efficient and cost-effective movement of goods and providing a competitive alternative to rail and road transport, while ensuring integration into the country’s international logistics chain.
According to Benedict Oramah, president of Afreximbank, the charting of the main channel of the Niger-Benue River project, which will facilitate regional transit, is timely given the recent commencement of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The grant from Afreximbank and NEXIM will allow for the development of infrastructure that will eventually relieve road congestion and enable some bulky commodities and solid minerals to move by the river.
“The project will not only enhance Nigeria’s attractiveness as an investment destination, but also foster regional integration and trade in the ECOWAS region. In addition, it will facilitate the reduction of the level of informal trade, thereby promoting industrialisation and financial inclusion for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs),” said Oramah.
Abubakar Abba Bello, Managing Director of NEXIM, said: the execution of the grant agreement strongly aligns with the strategic objectives of Afreximbank and NEXIM in trade promotion and support for the development of trade facilitating and enabling infrastructure that will deepen the partnership engagements of both institutions to foster trade connectivity, especially under the AfCFTA.
He said, the partnership will also facilitate the implementation of the Regional Sealink project, thereby promoting hinterland, coastal and transit trade as well as the broadening of Nigeria’s export basket with bulk commodities like solid minerals and agricultural products.”