The African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) has said its intervention in the maritime sector in the last three years include more than $500million facilities for the Onne Port expansion in the Onne FTZ, Nigeria, Gabon, Cote D’ivoire, vessel finance for delightering, security patrol of offshore platforms, hotels in Cape Verde.
Its President, Prof. Benedict Oramah, a paper titled: Awakening the Blue Giant: Catalysing the Growth of Nigeria’s Maritime Economy through Public Relations at the 19th NECCI PR Roundtable in Lagos.
Oramah said Afreximbank has continued to push the limits in Africa to promote intra and extra African trade. “Total assets as at June 2019 closed at $15.4billion, gross income of $498million, net income of $137million, CAR (Capital Adequacy Ratio) at 23 per cent, NPL (non Perfforming Loan) at three per cent, CIR (Cost Income Ratio) at 17.4 per cent and shareholders’ funds of $2.7billion,’’ he said.
On the importance of blue economy, Prof Oramah said: “The Blue Economy, also referred to as the ocean or maritime economy, is a concept which leverages the strength of the maritime ecosystem including fishing; shipping and maritime transport; coastal tourism; marine energy (fossil and renewable); pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, genetic resources and general sea-based products for economic growth and development.
“Africa’s seas and oceans represent major assets with the potential to accelerate the development of African economies. Indeed, according to the African Union (AU).
He said 90 percent of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted through the sea, adding that AU has recognised the importance of the blue economy and has included it in its Agenda 2063, which is a blueprint for the development of the continent for the next few decades.
On why the country must take the maritime sector seriously, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said despite efforts channeled to diversify the economy, the results are yet to be visible as oil still contributed over 70 percent of foreign exchange (forex).
“For a very long time, there is a perception that the most profitable sector in the country is oil and gas sector but evidence have shown that it’s not sustainable to depend on mono-economy so there has been agenda to diversify the economy.
“The government has explored different options, such as solid minerals, ICT, agriculture, but we seem not to have made a lot of progress. Till date, oil and gas still contribute 70 percent to our foreign exchange earnings,” Peterside said.
Peterside pointed out although the maritime sector is capital intensive, it can play a key role in the diversification agenda. “We need to look into capacity building. Half of the officers working on vessels around the world are Chinese. Korea is an economy that depends on shipbuilding.
“Africa with its endowment has moved from an exporter of fish resources to importer because we pay no attention and didn’t make enough investment. Japan, Korea, and China are the leading nation in the area of underwater mining while Africa which is the most endowed region in the world are not benefitting.
“Nigeria major challenges are perception and reputation. Outside Nigeria, they believe our system is not effective and sustainable for investment and this is because most stories about Nigeria are negative while the ones about European countries are positive stories. It’s time we begin to change the narrative and project our country in such a way that it will attract investors.”
The convener of the roundtable, Mrs. Nkechi Ali Balogun, said the group is hoping to explore the potential of the maritime economy, study the challenges and proffer sustainable solutions that will engender greater influx of foreign direct investment into the maritime sector.
“The roundtable will create strategies through which a systemic transformation of the maritime sector will be achieved through the methodologies of public relations,” she said.