President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday urged African states to work closely toward confronting the common development challenges before them.
Buhari said this in Abuja at the opening of the maiden edition of the International Association of Port and Harbours, Africa Regional Conference organised by the Nigeria Port Authority.
He said: “Africa countries are facing the same developmental challenges as well as large human capital and natural endowments.
“We should therefore work together and deploy our resources towards confronting those challenges.
“Presently, one of the resources that we can proudly speak about as Africans is our maritime endowments.
“A situation in which at least 39 of the 54 countries on the continent are either littoral or island states makes the formulation of policies for the effective utilisation of our waters for the growth of our economies expedient.
“The theme of the conference: African Ports and Hinterland Connectivity is itself a testament of the determination of the organisers of the conference to collectively seek lasting solutions to the challenges that port operations face on the continent.”
He said that the conference was timely as it was coming at a time that national leaders on the continent were pursuing the course of continental integration with all vigour.
He said: “This, in a sense, seems to be a divine ordination of our desire for continental integration, even though we have physical national boundaries that separate us.
“The waters are a natural source of connectivity and they seem like a subtle message that we must work together for the good of all our countries.
“This is why there could be no better time than now to hold this conference.”
Speaking, the Managing Director, IAPH, Patrick Verhoeven, said that the mission of the association was to promote the interests of ports worldwide and to achieve it through strong collaboration with other stakeholders.
He said that the conference would serve the purpose of putting the mission of IAPH into practice by looking at the key issue of connectivity in Hinterland connection.
Verhoeyen said: “The IAPH mission is to promote interests of ports worldwide, to achieve this, the IAPH forges strong member relationship, it encourages collaboration and information sharing to help resolve common issues.”
Julian Garcia, Head Facilties and Safety Division, International Maritime Organisation, said that the organisation was working towards better shipping and connectivity in the future.
He urged stakeholders to focus on the future and work together to address the challenges before the sector.
According to him, IAPH should create a significant impact by ensuring that member countries implement IMO regulations on the governance and sustainability of blue economy.
Blue economy refers to marine-based sustainable economic development which leads to improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.