Sunday, July 14, 2024

EU Plans €150bn Investment to Boost Intra-African Trade

The European Union Commission said it has concluded plans to invest €150bn in trade and transport infrastructure across West Africa with a special focus on the Lagos- Abidjan corridor.

According to the EU Commission, the initiative, which is part of its Global Gateway Initiative, aims to eliminate about 80 extortion checkpoints between the Benin Republic Border and Lagos State.

The Team Lead of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Celine Lhoste, disclosed this on Monday in Lagos during a tripartite meeting between the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, EU delegation and ECOWAS.

“There is an investment package of €150bn for Africa and West Africa is an important region where we are already investing a lot along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor,” she declared.

Lhoste highlighted the importance of Lagos ports to trade efficiency in the Lagos-Abidjan corridor.

She emphasised the EU’s commitment to supporting efforts to decongest Lagos ports and improve inland dry ports.

 Lhoste expressed interest in facilitating coastal shipping between Cotonou and Lagos ports, which could significantly enhance trade between Nigeria and Benin.

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“We are looking at possible investments to facilitate trade and transport along the corridor and in Lagos. The investment package under the global gateway initiative seeks to use various funding sources, including private sector contributions and grants, to lower the cost of investments,” she stated.

According to Lhoste, the EU is also in discussions with the Port of Antwerp to explore using barges to ease congestion and improve connections between seaports and hinterlands in Nigeria.

The Transport Officer at the Directorate General International Partnership of the EU Commission, Jesus Gavilan, outlined the challenges along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor, such as the numerous checkpoints that hinder smooth transport between Benin and Nigeria.

“When you move from the Benin Border to Lagos, you can be stopped at least 20 times with 80 checkpoints. This is a big barrier for transport between the two countries,” Gavilan averred.

He noted that the EU was working on a one-stop border post between Benin and Nigeria to streamline the passage of goods.

Gavilan maintained that the border post had not been fully operational with a lot needed to be done for the smooth passage of goods.

He said the project which is in partnership with the French Development Agency and the European Investment Bank, is nearing its official launch.

Gavilan also emphasised the need for inland dry ports as a key element to decongest the seaports and improve exports abroad.

He explained, “EU would have a look into investing in infrastructure while partnering with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.”

Earlier, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Pius Akutah, reiterated the council’s commitment to port efficiency and trade facilitation.

He also highlighted its role in setting tariffs and handling charges to reduce cargo abandonment and expedite ship turnaround times.

Akutah, represented by Executive Director of Human Resources, Ms Ada Okam, solicited the EU investment in the development of key transport infrastructures.

The Director of Special Duties at the NSC, Mustapha Zubairu, emphasised the need for a railway at the Lekki port to alleviate congestion caused by surrounding industrial activities.

He called for EU investment in that area and stressed the importance of uniform regulations within the regional corridor to facilitate seamless cargo movement.

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