Maritime sector can propel Africa’s economic development – Ayorkor Botchwey

By James Amoh Junior 

Accra, Jan. 30, GNA – Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, says the maritime sector has a great potential to propel Africa’s economic growth and development. 

She said the importance of developing Africa’s maritime sector could not be overemphasised as it was a key driver of economic growth, requiring maritime organisations to devise appropriate strategies to make it viable.   

“We are aware of the enormous contribution of the maritime industry to our economies, especially as the most cost-effective way of transporting large amounts of goods over long distances,” the Minister said when she addressed the 17th Extraordinary Session of the General Assembly of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA). 

Madam Ayorkor Botchwey therefore appealed to Member States to ensure that MOWCA continued to contribute positively to the growth of the industry, saying despite the strides made in the sub-region, more efforts were required to ensure that Africa’s Maritime Industry was at par with those of developed nations.  

MOWCA serves as the regional and international community for handling all maritime matters that are regional. 

MOWCA was established by the Heads of State of Member countries to provide an institutional mechanism to exert some control over the cost of carriage by sea for members. 

Its institutional mechanism was expanded to include the whole gamut of marine activities, including safety and security of property and life at sea, the prevention of marine pollution, maritime commerce, capacity building and sustainable financing of the maritime and port sector among others.  

The regional maritime general assembly for stakeholders in the maritime industry in Africa, brought together about 20 countries with over 60 delegates to strategise and deliberate on matters of importance to the maritime industry in Africa.  

The Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister said the maritime industry required trained personnel to ensure efficiency in operations, and urged MOWCA to coordinate with maritime institutions in the sub-regions to determine ways of making maritime education more affordable and accessible to all as that could lead to job opportunities in the industry and potentially reduce maritime crime. 

She said the current development in Green Shipping initiatives which involved the use of alternative fuels with low or zero carbon, in place of fossil fuels was fast becoming the new normal of shipping and Africa could not afford to be left out.  

Africa’s maritime industry, Madam Ayorkor Botchwey said, must therefore be prepared for the cost ramifications of the impending transition to cleaner fuels to ship-owners translating to increased freight rates.  

She urged MOWCA to consider the effects of the market-based measures within the International Maritime Organisation on the continent’s economy as it would be pertinent to identify possible ways to benefit from funds to minimise the effects of the transition on all players particularly Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).  

Mr Kweku Ofori Asiamah, Minister of Transport, said 80 per cent of international trade was done in the maritime space thus, MOWCA was a vital mechanism with immense contribution to the maritime industry for the economic prosperity of nations.  

He said the maritime industry transcended boundaries and that there was a need for regional blocs to collaborate effectively in the development of relevant strategies for the operations, extraction and utilisation of maritime resources.  

Therefore, Mr Asiamah, also the Chairman of MOkWCA, said the mandate of the Organisation was essential and efforts should be championed for its effective and efficient operation.  

He said: “…no single Member state can make significant strides on their own. Areas such as maritime security, maritime safety and navigation, port and infrastructure development, environmental protection, and fisheries among others can only become effective when approached with a coordinated and integrated effort.”  

Ambassador Dr Paul I. Adalikwu, Secretary-General, MOWCA, announced that the prospect of having a robust Maritime Development Bank to be located in Nigeria was part of the repositioning drive of the organisation.  

He said: “I expect to use the platform of MOWCA to plant a lush and luxuriant economic tree for the entire African continent on the ashes of the old vision of the organisation…”  

In realising that, Ambassador Adalikwu said, the ultimate health of the continent’s economy depended much on the total and altruistic commitment to the Organisation by its member states.