Nigeria has been recognized globally as a reputable maritime nation with over 8,000 kilometers of navigable inland and coastal channels, as well as its fresh water lakes. However, it is struggling to strengthen its maritime sector with modern maritime architecture capable of boosting the country’s GDP.
Nigerian seaports are a significant example. They are relatively small for modern vessels to load or discharge liquefied products and bulk cargoes, and Nigerian waterways are not deep enough for the navigation of ultra-modern vessels.
If these setbacks are not urgently corrected, they will continue to reduce Nigeria’s level of involvement in international trade and the global economy.
World renowned maritime nations such as Norway, the U.S., Denmark, Panama and Nicaragua are really thinking strategically in creating a significant future for effective international trade and a more efficient global maritime economy. For example, a recent proposal highlights the potential for a connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific via the Nicaraguan Lake and Isthmus of Rivas. This would facilitate the easy passage of larger vessels over 80,000dwt, speeding transit times and easing congestion in the Panama Canal, thus contributing to more efficient international maritime trade.
The Nigerian government should learn from Panama and other maritime nations by contributing to the development of major maritime activities. The country’s economic GDP would also benefit enormously from the expansion of its navigable coastal areas for effective maritime competitiveness and significant trade participation involving larger future vessels.
More programs should be developed in Nigeria to focus on the re-enforcement of human capital within the maritime sector, such as management and financial empowerment, digital supply chain proficiency, to mention a few. Taking lessons from other world-renowned maritime nations such as Norway, the U.S., the Netherlands and Denmark, more professional maritime networks should be developed to enable would-be informal maritime entrepreneurs to acquire enterprise specific skills and develop their social capital. This would contribute greatly to improving maritime sector efficiency and viability in Nigeria.
In 2017/18 research carried by out by the Nigerian Ports Authority, it was mentioned that the country losses some $7 billion annually in revenue due to inefficiencies and the weak infrastructure of Nigerian seaports. However, this same report also recorded that $840 million was made in revenue in 2017. It was also stated that 10,000 direct new jobs were recorded within the maritime port sector. The Nigerian maritime industry also recorded another 800,000 new jobs with an increasing volume of 1.3 million shipment of non-oil products. All these positive attributes led to a 2.1 percent increase in GDP.
Creating a more competitive and enabling infrastructure including digital logistics, inland waterways expansion, foreign direct investment and encouraging more private investors to enter the maritime business may bring incentives for expansion. This will help Nigeria and also boost the economic situation of major landlocked countries in West Africa such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.
Dr. Akinseye Olatokunbo Aluko is Deputy Programme Leader in Oil and Gas Management at the University of East London.