On behalf of the government and people of Nigeria, it is with pleasure that I welcome you, brothers and sisters from all over Africa to this conference.
2. Let me thank the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority, whose Managing Director is also the Regional Vice President of the International Association of Ports and Harbours for accepting to host the conference at a time that national leaders on the continent are pursuing the course of continental integration with vigor.
3. It is gratifying that the idea of a continental conference is coming up for the first time now that a Nigerian is privileged to be the Vice President of this body.
4. African countries are facing the same developmental challenges as well as being endowed with large human capital and natural resources. We should therefore work together and deploy our resources towards confronting those challenges.
5. Presently, one of the resources that we can proudly speak about as Africans is our maritime endowments. A situation in which at least 39 of the 54 countries on the continent are either littoral or island states makes the formulation of policies for the effective utilization of our waters to our economies expedient.
6. The theme of the conference: African Ports and Hinterland Connectivity is itself a testament of thedetermination of the organizers of the conference to collectively seek lasting solutions to the challenges that port operations face on the continent. After the issues of adequate security and transparency, the one other important factor deciding the competitiveness of ports is the efficiency with which cargoes are evacuated to and from the ports. This, without doubt is an area in which port operations in Africa need a lot of attention.
7. Of course, there are on-going discussions in Nigeria and other African countries on the expediency of investing in infrastructure that supports the many means of transportation between our ports and the hinterland. Meetings like this put the issues in proper perspectives and serve as avenue for the generation of ideas that would aid our governments to formulate effective policies.
8. This administration that I am privileged to lead is committed to rebuilding infrastructure that supports the means means of transportation from the ports to the hinterland. We understand that this interconnectivity will improve the country’s economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. So for starters, I have directed that every port must have the complement of rail infrastructure. Our projection is that by the end of year 2021, we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.
9. The same level of serious attention is being given to the improvement of road infrastructure. At the moment, 25 major highways and 44 roads are under construction across the six geo political zones of the country. Furthermore, we have stimulated activities on our inland waterways. Major inland river channels are being dredged with adequate channel markings for ease of navigation through the Eastern and Northern parts of the country. That is the best way to go if we plan to remain competitive in the maritime industry.
10. I want to implore participants at the conference to see themselves as people opportune to stand in positions of responsibility on behalf of Africa. I say this because the maritime sector where all of you are fortunate to be active stakeholders is central to the facilitation of trade and the total integration of African economies.
11. I look forward to a fruitful outcome of this conference and trust that all of Africa will benefit. It is now my pleasure to declare the first Regional Conference of the International Association for Ports and Harbours in Africa open. I wish you very useful deliberations.
Thank you for your attention.
*Being the opening address President Muhammadu Buhari, at the International Association of Ports and Harbours Africa Regional Conference, Abuja.