The various chambers of commerce in the sub-region are finalising moves to start a shipping line early next year in an attempt to ease the high cost of doing business in West Africa, the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry has revealed.
“We have identified that doing business in West Africa is becoming difficult. There are a lot of bottlenecks at the various boundaries and checkpoints as you travel by road, however, when you travel by sea there is no traffic, there is no boundary and it makes doing business very easy.
The cost of doing business too, on the sea is on the lower side, so we have thought it prudent to have a project called the Sealink, which involves having ships to run with cargo and passengers on the coast within the sub-region,” said Nana Dr. Appiagyei Dankawoso I, President of the GNCCI.
Regarding when the project will be fully operational, he said: “We are almost 80 percent through and in no time, we will be finalising our operations. It is even our hope that by the close of this year we would have at least two ships to kick start the whole show but looking at the situation, early next year will be more realistic.”
He disclosed this on the sidelines of the 41st Annual General Meeting of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Accra.
The Sealink project, led by the 15-member countries of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry, is focused on the establishment of a Regional Maritime Shipping Line that will interconnect West and Central Africa to reduce the cost of transporting goods within the region.
All these chambers in the West African sub-region have already agreed to buy at least US$14,000 shares, with the rest of the funding coming from institutions and private investors in the region.
“We were in Togo recently and the ECOWAS Bank of Investment and Development is going to support this initiative. The Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) has also committed itself and a few other individuals have also made a commitment to support it.
The shares will be distributed to the various countries for its members, so Nigeria has its share, Togo has and so on. So all these member countries have to use their shares to pay accordingly to make the project kick off,” he added.
When completed, the project will not only reduce the cost of doing business among ECOWAS countries by half but more than double the trade volumes between the 15 sub-regional members.