SIFAX: Infrastructural deficit, bane of maritime industry growth – Afolabi

Written by Maritime First
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The SIFAX Group Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi has identified the currently huge infrastructural deficit as a major factor seriously impeding the Nigerian maritime sector from fulfilling its potentials and called on the Federal Government to decisively address it.

“Our sector cannot continue to reel under the burden of infrastructural decay if we want to contribute meaningfully to the economy and fulfill the industry’s potentials”, Dr Afolabi stated, highlighting them as the deplorable access roads, faulty cargo scanners, non-existent rail system, and the non-functional truck bay, among others, which seemingly have conspired to negatively impact the service delivery efficiency and overall maritime sector impact.

Addressing participants at the second edition of the Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference held on Friday, August 4, 2017 at the Main Auditorium, University of Lagos.

He indicated that a key focus of the conference is to promote the culture of intellectual discourse in the country’s maritime industry, particularly an intellectual engagement which will be solution-oriented.

L-R: Mrs Funke Agbor (SAN), Senior Partner, ACAS-Law; Bola Ashiru, Strategy and Operations Lead‎, Deloitte West Africa; Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group; Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi, Chairman of the Occasion; Inam Wilson, Partner, Templars Law; Princess Vicky Haastrup, Executive Vice Chairman, ENL Consortium Limited and Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria at the 2nd edition of the 2017 Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference held at UNILAG sponsored by SIFAX Group.

“We seek to address topical issues that are germane to the prosperity of the maritime sector as well as all its stakeholders, which include the client, agents, investors, regulators, workers and the community, among others.

“According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations affiliate responsible for regulating the global maritime industry, over 90% of the world’s trade is transported by sea and it is, by far, the most cost-effective way to move en masse goods and raw materials around the world.

“The sector also has a key role to play in the alleviation of extreme poverty and hunger as it already provides an important source of income and employment for many developing countries, such as the supply of seagoing personnel and ship recycling, ship owning and operating, shipbuilding and repair and port services, among others.

Mallam D. Bulangu, former GM Sifax (1st left), Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi, Chairman of the Occasion (1st right) and other distinguished participants

“As highlighted above, the maritime industry is strategic to any maritime nation in terms of its contribution to its economic growth and development” he posited further.

He however regretted that in Nigeria, the contribution of the sector to the country’s GDP is still very low when juxtaposed with its huge potentials and opportunities, and commended the commitment of the Federal Government to reforms in the maritime industry, especially in respect of the Executive Order signed some months back by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

“It is an acknowledgement of the fact that things must be done differently. However, infrastructural deficit would negate the good intentions of the government if this problem is not strategically and urgently addressed.

WISTA Chieftain, Barr. Jean Chiazor Anishere at the event.

“Experts from diverse, but relevant backgrounds – maritime, law, academics, business, consultancy etc, have been assembled to do justice to the topic. Many of them I know personally and can attest to their rigour, scholarship and genuine commitment to improvement in the sector. To those I have not met, I have been privileged to read their resumes. To say they are intimidating is an understatement. I am convinced that we would end this conference with useful insights that will translate to a tangible solution.

“Let me thank the president, officers and members of the Maritime Forum, who have shown through this conference that young people can act as catalysts for change if they put their minds to it. I have always believed in the energy and dynamism of the youth and it’s not surprising that they are showing us that they are ready to lead in the future”, he concluded, saying how refreshing and humbling, it was for him, to see his little efforts at stimulating growth in the maritime industry, being recognized by his  alma mater, the UNILAG and by its crop of young but highly intelligent students who had shown keen interest in the industry.

In the meantime, a financial expert, Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, has observed a pronounced dysfunctioning manufacturing sector where growth is stunted as the demand for goods and services far outstripped supply; and urged the Federal Government to adopt urgent corrective measures.

The Senior Economist at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, made the call on Sunday in Lagos while reacting to the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data for the month of July.

Highlighting the need to fast-track the growth of the manufacturing sector through the provision of infrastructure and the provision of credit, Tella noted that the data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) only showed that the PMI stood at 54.1 per cent in July 2017, indicating marginal expansion in the manufacturing sector for the fourth consecutive month.

He therefore urged the managers of the economy to develop a robust research that would show improvement in the economy.

“I think that the situation has not changed. There is need for the managers to look at the economy holistically.

“There is need for the research component to give us a true reflection of the economy,’’ Tella said, pointing out that the decision of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to retain the lending rate at 14 per cent cannot stimulate the economy since the cost of borrowing is too high.

The financial expert noted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also said that the growth of the nation’s economy was slow, below expectation.

The don argued that no meaningful improvement could take place in an economy with a huge infrastructure deficit, a composite PMI above 50 points indicates that the manufacturing/non-manufacturing economy is generally expanding.

Fifty points indicates no change and below 50 points indicates that it is generally contracting. Below are the PMI for the months of March to July.

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