Mr. Jean Marie Koffi, the Secretary General of the Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), has said that the association is preparing ports in its jurisdiction to support the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Mr. Koffi said that as part of the preparation, a key initiative was to guide member ports to harmonise procedures for the export and import of originating products.
Speaking at a Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority’s (GPHA) media platform forum, he said his outfit was optimistic that intra-Africa trade had the potential to alleviate poverty among over 100 million Africans.
He noted that PMAWCA believed in the simplification of administrative and customs procedures, as well as the elimination of bureaucracy, adding that there was a need to ensure that port infrastructures in the region were fitted for purpose, serving as trade hubs powered by modern technology.
He said historically, shipping had proven to be the most reliable mode of transporting commercial quantities of goods in the world, adding that currently, more than 80 percent of such goods were still said to be conveyed via the seaport.
He stated that this demonstrated the continued significance of ports and shipping in international trade, adding, however, that it was sad that ports on the African continent, despite increased investment and development, were yet to be taken full advantage of in relation to the free trade agreement.
Mr. Louis Yaw Afful, the Executive Director of AfCFTA Policy Network (APN), acknowledged the significance of ports in recording success in the aims of AfCFTA, saying that was why his outfit had termed the ports “the bellies of the entire AfCFTA agreement.”
Mr. Afful said member states must set aside funding to develop their ports in line with global advancements in technology and recognise that port operations are a key ingredient of the infrastructure required for AfCFTA trading.
He praised Ghana’s paperless agenda to automate port processes, in addition to the billions of dollars of investment sunk into infrastructural developments at the ports and called for continued commitment in this regard.