Dec 3, 2014, 10:17 AM
The meeting, which attracted participants from such countries as Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia, Togo, Niger, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and others in the sub-region, discussed the sealink project as a catalyst for economic integration of West and Central Africa. It also reviewed the project’s investment promotional activities to date and its future plans, as well as highlighted the role of National Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the investment promotion for the Sealink project.
According to FEWACCI, the Sealink project is out to foster inter-regional maritime passenger and freight services as a catalyst to trade development in and between the sub-regions.
It also aims to complement and improve existing transportation (road and airline) services by providing additional capacity and alternative of ocean transport routes.
In his keynote address, Trade and Regional Integration Minister Abdou Jobe, who represented the Vice President of The Gambia at the occasion, emphasized the importance of the sea route project to the sub-region.
He said about 90 per cent of international trade today relies on sea route, as it provides reliable and efficient transportation of people and goods.
This condition has been firmly entrenched by the fact that “it is today difficult to travel by road” and other means such as railways or airline.
“It is important to recognize the importance of this sector, as it does so much good to promote trade and investment,” the minister said.
He commended the Gambian president, who has made Gambia a promoter of regional integration, trade and investments in the region.
He also commended the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry for its service in complementing government’s effort at promoting trade and investment in the country, supporting the private sector and contributing to the economic growth of The Gambia.
In his presentation at the regional meeting, FEWACCI president and Director of the Sealink SPV board, Bai Matarr Drammeh, said they are at an advanced stage in getting the Sealink project up and running.
When put in operation, he declared, the Sealink project would connect the 15-member states of West Africa and beyond, benefiting Central Africa as well.
“I have the pleasure of informing you at this gathering that we are far advanced in the process of establishing a regional maritime company, called Sealink, which will connect all the ports in the 15 ECOWAS member countries transporting both cargo and passengers,” he said.
Just as Asky airline (facilitated by FEWACCI) has expanded its area of operations to cover central Africa, “Sealink will also have operations in Central Africa”.
FEWACCI connects West African businesses to the sources of supply of raw materials to distributors for their products and additional investments into their business.
He said the Sealink is going to offer an alternative to the problem of road transport by opening up the maritime routes, as road transport will, for a long time, be a major factor in the smooth movement of people and goods.
“I am hopeful, though, that in the next years to come, this problem will be significantly minimized as I am aware that ECOWAS has ambitious road infrastructure development plans. One of such plans is the construction of a 6-lane Lagos-Dakar highway, for which preliminary surveys have already been conducted, pending the completion of the studies and the actual construction of the missing links from Lagos to Dakar to make it motorable all the way through.”
The FEWACCI president added: “There is also the development of the ECOWAS railway master plan, which is under study and which will, when completed, further open access to markets all over the region and beyond.”
In his welcome address on the occasion, GCCI’s President Mohamed Jagana, emphasised the importance of the Sealink project.
He said The Gambia is a strategic partner to the Sealink project as it serves as the gateway to sub-regional trade.
Mr Jagana said the project will promote inter-country trade in West Africa and ensure the transportation and manufacturing of goods and products within the region.
GCCI, he also said, stands ready to help members of the Gambia private sector to reach out with their goods and services in West Africa through the Sealink project.
Cognizant of the important role the private sector has to play in the effective regional integration, the 15 chambers of commerce of the ECOWAS zone decided to come together in the early 80s to set up the Federation of West Africa Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) as a private not-for-profit organization.
The Federation was set up with theobjectives of serving as an advocacy tool for
an effective participation of the private sector in policy decisions for
regional integration programmes; serving as a lobby for private-sector-friendly
policy programmes; building the capacity of the regional private sector innegotiations, promoting cross-border trade
and investment; promoting transnational companies; enhancing the
managementcapacity of its members, and
promoting the ECOWAS region as an investment destination.