Nigeria’s efforts to boost export and earn more foreign exchange are under threat due to the absence of critical infrastructure such as motorable roads at the Seme border, which serves as the major trade gateway to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region.
Seme Border is a settlement in Nigeria on the border with Benin, which is less than 20 minutes’ drive from Badagry. The Nigerian economy is the biggest economy in the West African region and the entire African continent but movement of its products to West Africa is hampered by poor state of roads caused by incessant court cases initiated by contractors.
Experts say the region cannot take its strategic position in the continent in terms of foreign exchange earning if efforts are not made to resolve all disputes out of court and ensure completion of the roads linking major countries.
“Infrastructure impacts export competitiveness, and this is what is responsible for lack of regional trade. The state of infrastructure in the West Africa region is poor,” Madu Obiora, former chairman-export group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), told BusinessDay.
“The only region in Africa that is doing well in terms of infrastructure is East Africa. They have a railway connecting the whole region. Intra Africa trade is somewhere around 12 percent when other regions in the world are doing 50-60 percent and this is because the logistics to facilitate trade in Africa are lacking.
“If we do not do anything about our infrastructural gaps, we won’t get anywhere economically. We need to activate various means of transportation,” Madu said.
BusinessDay visited the border recently and found trucks fully loaded with goods coming from Nigeria spending weeks before passing through the Seme border to other West Africa countries, owing to the poor state of road infrastructure particularly at Seme Krake.
“The roads at the Seme border are very bad because the land is a swampy place. We have been here for two weeks because our truck sank and we had to get a crane to pull it out,” Musa Mohammed, a truck driver, told BusinessDay at the border.
“We spent CFA150, 000 paying for the crane. This has increased our logistics cost and made it difficult to carry goods from Nigeria to other West Africa countries,” Mohammed said.
Martin Enahoro, deputy director, Peniel Gerar International, said: “The roads at the Seme Border are very bad. Nigeria businesses exporting goods to ECOWAS are finding it difficult to penetrate the market of other West African countries because of the bad roads at the border. This has increased the logistics cost of Nigeria businesses involved in regional trade,” Enahoro said.
To facilitate trade in the region, ECOWAS commenced the construction of a Joint Border Post (JBP) at Seme Krake between Nigeria and Benin.
The JBP, which is funded by the European Union, was supposed to be have been completed by March 2016 but is still under construction as several court injunctions halted the project at intervals.
BusinessDay found that work was currently more than 80 percent close to completion and can be fully completed before the end of the year if all court cases are resolved and contractors return to site.
Nigeria ranks 181st of 190 countries in terms of cross-border trade, according to data from the World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business.
“There has been delay in the completion of the project because a contactor took us to court and we have to give it to another contractor,” said Ken Ife, lead consultant and chief economic strategist, ECOWAS Commission at a telephone response to questions.
“The Seme Joint Boarder Post (JBP) is funded by the European Union (EU) and it is they that would collect the project from the contractors after completion and hand it over to ECOWAS,” Ife added.
Source: Business Day