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Business News of Friday, 22 September 2017

Source: Graphic.com.gh

2nd Africa Port Evolution Conference held in Accra

The low participation of the West African sub-region in international trade has been linked to the weak intermodal infrastructure that exists within the sub-region.

According to the acting General Manager in charge of Business Development at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Mr Samuel Ntow-Kumi, the efficient functioning of seaports required adequate investment in infrastructure and excellent hinterland connectivity.

“This, in turn, requires the efficient intermodal network to facilitate the movement of freight and passengers,” Mr Ntow-Kumi said.

At the opening of the second Africa Port Evolution Conference in Accra last Tuesday, Mr Ntow-Kumi expressed worry that Ghana’s modest rail network bequeathed by the colonial administration had virtually collapsed, with most of the networks being left in a state of disrepair.

That, he said, had left the road transport sector as the dominant mode of freight movement within Ghana and to the sub-region.

The conference, which was organized by a South African international media group, Hypenica, and aimed to share experience and stimulate the adoption of intermodal transport among countries within the West and Central African sub-region to maximise, was attended by representatives within the port trade supply chain from Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria.

New developments

Mr Ntow-Kumi suggested that the ongoing investments in port developments and expansion underway in Ghana, Nigeria, and other countries within the sub-region would require improvements in hinterland connections to improve accessibility and stimulate economic growth.

“A major component of this will be the rehabilitation and redevelopment of rail networks to allow intermodal transport of freight,” he suggested.

Natural resource

Mr Ntow-Kumi further stressed that Ghana’s natural resources, such as the Volta Lake, presented a greater opportunity that the country could harness for development.

The lake, he said, had the potential to provide alternative intermodal access to the north of the country and the Sahelian region.

Improving intermodal connectivity into the hinterland, Mr Ntow-Kumi emphasized, would bring a lot of benefits such as opening the hinterland up, expanding the direct economic impact of ports and reducing freight transport by providing alternative modes to trade and industry.

Opportunities

The acting Director-General of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission of Nigeria, Mr Chidi Izuwah snr., highlighted the need for African countries to tap into the $120 trillion capital available in the world to invest in infrastructure development.

The amount, which he said was being managed by banks and institutional investors, could only be accessed if Africans met conditions of well-developed projects, market facilitation, and standardization, among others.

He was of the view that building investor confidence to access such facilities required that African governments allowed professionals to manage contracts and their execution.

Governments, he stressed, had no business running ventures that they could not control, hence the need to ensure projects were executed under concession arrangements, where professionals and investors would inject capital while they provided the enabling environment.

The Secretary-General of the Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), Mr Michael Luguje, who chaired the conference indicated that the rail transport had been rated as a crucial mode to port competitiveness since it had carrying capacity with a low operating cost.

Railways, just like road network, he said, should be seen by governments as social infrastructure which must be provided without any direct economic profit.

The Executive Director of Transport Portfolio at Hypenica, Ms Nevenka Ristic, indicated that port atomisation, development, and efficiency required the sharing of experiences, knowledge and technology.

She stressed that the conference was to provide an opportunity for players to collaborate at regional levels to shape solutions and find a balance in trade growth.