African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) in its role as a systemically important and market-failure bank for Africa provided a grant of $350,000 and leveraged on its partnership with the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Navy to facilitate the movement of goods using navigable waterways in Nigeria. In this regard, a major milestone in the quest to unlock the huge potentials in transportation on Nigeria’s inland waterways was recorded on Tuesday 16th March 2023 with the unveiling of the Navigational Charts of the Lower River Niger by the Honourable Minister for Transportation, Mr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo supported by, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha. The Charting project was made possible by the grant from Afreximbank in recognition of the importance of inland waterways transportation and by extension, coastal waterways transportation, to its mandate of promoting Intra-African trade.
Speaking at the event, the Honourable Minister for Transportation, Mr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, hailed the support from Afreximbank through the grant and reiterated the importance of water transportation as the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation with significant economic benefits, citing the example of the United States of America where 60% of agricultural produce are moved through inland waterways. He commended the efforts of all the parties involved in the activity and made commitment to progressing the subsequent activities involved to make the movement of goods on the lower River Niger from the hinterlands to the coastal lands possible.
Afreximbank was represented at the event by Mr. Remigius Nwachukwu, Manager Trade Finance, Anglophone West Africa, who commended the leadership and vision of Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Afreximbank towards the realization of this project which falls clearly within the ambit of the mandate of Afreximbank in promoting, facilitating and financing intra- and extra-African trade. Afreximbank also noted that existing African infrastructure was designed to carry African commodities to the global markets and not to facilitate intra-African trade. In this context, Afreximbank decided to support the development of the maritime sector including inland waterways to ensure that there are efficient and cost-effective routes to facilitate intra-African trade under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The launch of the navigational charts is following a Maritime Survey and Charting Project executed by the Sealink Consortium in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Neximbank which was financed through the grant from Afreximbank. The Navigational Charting was undertaken by a wholly indigenous team from the Nigerian Navy and NIWA. The Regional Sealink Project is a trade facilitation initiative designed to bridge critical logistics infrastructure gap toward facilitating and deepening inland and intra-coastal waterways operations. The charts provide information on navigable and restricted areas of the river channel as well as serve as a springboard to attaining a fully developed navigable channel. The Charting covered a distance of 456 km from Jamata, Lokoja to Burutu and have been approved by the International Centre for Electronic Navigational Charts having met International Hydrographic Organisation’s standards. Although some more work like dredging and removal of identified wrecks are still expected to be done on the channel, navigational activities can commence with the use of the Charts which Mariners can obtain from the International Centre for Electronic Navigational Charts either in hard copy or electronic form.