The efforts of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank to facilitate the establishment of a regional maritime company, The Sealink Project, has received a fresh boost with the signing of a financial grant with the African Development Bank (AfDB) for US$302, 000 under the aegis of the Nigerian Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF).
The objective of the Sealink Project is to promote intra and inter- African trade, thereby fostering regional integration, economic growth and development in the West and Central African sub-regions. This is in line with the Government's transformational policy on trade and transport as articulated in the Regional Trade component of the New Trade Policy.
Speaking at the event, the Resident Representative for the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group in Nigeria, Mr. Ousmane Dore, reiterated AfDB's commitment to promoting infrastructure development in Africa as being in line with the Bank's overarching objective to spur sustainable economic development, social progress and poverty reduction in the regional member countries (RMCs). He indicated that an innovative maritime initiative such as the Sealink Project would greatly assist in bridging the artificial boundaries that have hitherto prevented trade, economic integration and a seamless logistic services within the region. He was particularly impressed that NEXIM deemed it strategic enough to enlarge the scope of the project to include the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) region (for which feasibility study part of the grant shall be applied), and expressed the hope that eventually the project would cover the entire region and enhance trade, free movement of persons, goods and services.
Also, the Acting Director-General of the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), Mr. Suleiman Shuaibu stated that the aim of his Directorate (which is under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is to enhance Africa's development and integration by creating the enabling environment and opportunity for Nigerian professionals and indeed those of African descent to invest their immense intellect, expertise and skills in the economies of Africa towards bridging the widening economic and scientific gap between Africa and the rest of the world. Continuing, he indicated that the financial grant of US$ 302, 000 to NEXIM Bank for the Sealink project is in line with the DirectorateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s interest to facilitate cooperation and integration in Africa through the mechanism of technical assistance and better cooperation with other African countries, especially given Nigeria's role as leader in Africa.
In his remarks, Mr. Roberts Orya, the MD/CEO of NEXIM Bank thanked the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA) and African Development Bank (AfDB) for the Nigerian Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF) grant to NEXIM.
According to Mr. Orya, "The release of this financial grant of US$302,000 to NEXIM Bank under the Nigerian Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF) (which is) managed by African Development Bank is an attestation of the confidence the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as other key stakeholders in our commitment, especially through the SEALINK Project, to facilitate the free movement of persons, goods and services within the West and Central African sub-regions."
The US$302, 000 grant would be used to conduct further feasibility studies on the project to extend it to the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), as well as enhance the Sealink promotional activities and assist in the development of human capital and corporate governance structure of the the Sealink Promotional Company Limited (SPV) which was incorporated to facilitate the project implementation. The SPV is being promoted by the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), Nigerian Export - Import Bank (NEXIM) and Transimex, S. A, Cameroun.
Mr. Orya used the opportunity of the event to provide an update on the Sealink Project implementation and maintained that the Sealink is a private sector-driven project and that NEXIM Bank is only facilitating its establishment in line with its mandate, as the Trade Policy Bank of Nigeria, to promote and deepen non-oil sector export trade. He indicated that the project's promotional phase and capital raising exercise are still ongoing with a pilot implementation phase expected to commence in the Q2 Y2015; while full project implementation would be initiated by the Q4 2015.
The NEXIM MD reiterated that the Sealink project would assist in regional integration by mitigating some of the non-tariff barriers in intra/inter-regional trade in Africa. Specifically, the project will assist in reducing the high transportation costs as well as the excessive transit time which make intra-regional trade within West and Central Africa non-competitive and among the most expensive in the world, in terms of logistic costs.
Mr. Orya believes that the upon full implementation, the Sealink project will assist in improving the current low level of export trade between Nigeria and other countries within the ECOWAS and ECCAS sub-regions.
It is noteworthy that the Board and Management of NEXIM Bank and that other relevant stakeholders such as the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), ECOWAS Parliament, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Transport, Nigerian Shippers' Council, and the Organized Private Sector - FEWACCI, NACCIMA and MAN Export Group, among others fully support the Sealink project