Mr Faisai Mohammed, the Deputy Director, Trade Services, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), says for African region to witness effective growth and development, it must boost its inter-trading.
Mohammed disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sideline of a two-day meeting of committee of experts of the Union of African Shippers Council (UASC) in Abuja.
According to him, statistics have shown that the richest countries are the ones that trade within themselves in their region, while the poorest ones rely on other regions to trade.
“These are statistics that cannot be faulted. So for Africa to grow, it must boost its trade.
”To grow, it must make its processes simpler, we have some of the most cumbersome processes for trading; whether for export or for import.
”You control these processes or make them easier, you trade more. So, we have to streamline our processes, automate our processes because man to man interactions lead to processes being delayed; it’s natural.
”Whether out of conceit or laziness, once a human being is in charge of any process, you tend to see it slow down. When it’s automated it becomes faster,” he said.
Mohammed stressed the importance of sensitisation of traders to enable them know what they are venturing into.
He said traders have to come together to enlighten each other and expose themselves to modern day trends.
”When you do that, everybody knows what to do when it comes to trading.
”You will be surprised as to the number of people who trade without absolute knowledge of what to do and when it doesn’t get to the port, it becomes a problem.
”The truth is that the ports is a very dangerous place if you do not know what you are doing; you will get cheated and most traders undergo such underhand dealing which results into them not wanting to trade anymore.”
The trade expert reiterated the importance of political will, saying that without it, there was very little that could be achieved.
According to him, government policy is also key because at the end of the day, what government decides is what happens on trading.
”If government promises are consistent as to what is traded, how to trade and where to trade, then trade will go seamless.
“But if government changes policies, if there is policy summersault, then in spite of everything that happens, you are back to square one.”
On high cost of shipping, charges and surcharges, Mohammed explained that it was not peculiar to Nigeria but the entire sub region.
He said this was the reason for the meeting of experts, for member states to mount united and concerted effort to get desired results.
While explaining the reasons for surcharges, he noted that some of them were self-inflicted brought about by poor handling infrastructure.
”You will see our ports with four or five cranes, which will always cause congestion in the sea, vessels are delayed waiting for packing space.
”Secondly, we have very low automation; our processes in the ports are hardly automated, and you know what that results into, it will always lead to artificial and underhand delays.
”And if that is the case in most of West Africa, then you should expect that these service providers will take advantage of those things to increase surcharges,” he explained.