In a move aimed at enhancing maritime transportation and propelling intra-Africa trade, Barrister Funmi Folorunsho, Co-Champion for Transportation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Secretary General African Ship-Owners Association has unveiled plans for the launch of an Africa Shipping Line in the first quarter of 2024, stating that the strategic initiative aligns with AfCFTA’s objectives of fostering economic growth and logistical efficiency throughout the continent.
Addressing stakeholders at the 43rd Annual Council meeting of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) in Lagos last week, Folorunsho outlined the comprehensive blueprint for the Africa Shipping Line.
She emphasised the need for a robust fleet, she revealed ambitious targets, including a 188% increase in bulk vessels and a planned 180% surge in container vessels. This expansion, according to her, aims to accommodate the anticipated surge in maritime transport volume, projected to soar from nearly 58 million to 131.5 million tonnes.
To facilitate the seamless operation of the shipping line, Folorunsho shed light on the financing mechanisms. These include tapping into funds generated through the AfCFTA African Cargo for Africa Ships programme, engaging the private sector, collaborating with the African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim), and exploring partnerships with existing shipping lines in Africa.
Folorunsho further underscored the broader impact of the proposed Africa Shipping Line on economic and logistical fronts. Notably, she pointed out that, in 2019, 65 seaports were connected by 142 links, accounting for 22.1% of intra-Africa freight transport demand. She explained that with the expected surge in maritime transport volume, the total maritime transport share is projected to increase to 22.7%, unlocking substantial opportunities for economic and logistical growth.
The venture also garnered support from Mr. Armand Hounto, Consultant Strategist Adviser at MT Montreal, Quebec. Hounto emphasized the need for a continental Cabotage policy as an integral part of AfCFTA’s trade liberalization efforts.
Drawing attention to the lack of such a policy in Africa, he highlighted the necessity for infrastructure catering to international Cabotage and suggested an equitable contribution to transnational African companies. Hounto recommended a percentage, ranging from zero to 15 per cent exchange, to stimulate economic activities and position African ports for transformative changes.