March 23, 2023

Maritime Today Online

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At WISTA business luncheon, FG urges women to leverage AfCFTA

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani and Chairman, Starzs Investment Company Limited, Engr Greg Ogbeifun, unveiling the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria magazine at the annual business luncheon of the association in Lagos on Thursday.

The Federal Government through the Ministry of Transportation has called on women to leverage the opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to enhance the nation’s participation and expand its frontiers in the maritime industry/trade sector.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, made the call during the annual business Luncheon and Magazine Launch of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), themed “The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement: Investment Opportunities for Women in Trade”.

Dr. Ajani who spoke on behalf of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and his State counterpart, Gbemisola Saraki, said women accounts for 70 percent of informal cross-border traders in Africa, according to statistics by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.


L-R: Continental President, Women in Maritime Africa, Mrs. Jean Chiazor Anishere (SAN); Dr Magdalene Ajani; and President, WISTA Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke

She said the tariff reduction, non-tariff barriers elimination and other trade facilitation measures in the trade agreement provide an opportunity for more women traders to access the market and operate through the formal channels, which will help eliminate their vulnerability to harassment/violence that is rampant in the informal sector.

Ajani added that considering the opportunities provided by the new trade agreement, there is a need for coordinated capacity development for women to achieve a continuous improvement in career progression and productivity level in the maritime/transport logistics industry.

The focus, she said, should be on enhancing technical skills to enable effective participation in the domestic and regional value chains while taking advantage of the opportunities offered by global value chains.

“It is common knowledge that the maritime industry has historically been a male dominated career. The explanation is quite obvious; in the past and even now, maritime jobs on board vessels and in the port environment required physical strength. Therefore, society prohibited women from participating in the industry, especially at the operational level.

L-R: Chairman, Shipowners Forum, Mrs Margret Orakwusi; Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Hasstrup; Mrs. Anishere (SAN); Dr Ajani; and Ezeoke.

“In order to minimize the existing gender participatory gap in the maritime sector, many countries including Nigeria have keyed into the strategic gender programme of International Maritime Organization (IMO), geared towards enhancing the participation and contribution of women as key maritime stakeholders. As we confront the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to give women the opportunity to play an effective leadership role in the rebuilding/recovery efforts in the maritime and trade sectors.

“As African economies struggle to manage the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, the trade agreement is expected to provide an anchor for long-term reform and integration policy, geared towards reduction in trade cost, growing manufacturing sector, lowering the gender wage gap, providing new job opportunities and increasing decent employment opportunities especially for women,” she said.

Dr. Ajani, while commending WISTA for consummating a Memorandum of Understanding (Mou) with IMO designed to promote gender diversity and inclusion as vital factors in providing sustainable future for the shipping industry globally, described the group as one of the leading voices in global conversation for the empowerment of women in the maritime industry and beyond.

“I will also like to commend WISTA for their commitment to tackling gender bias and mentoring a new generation of female employees in the maritime industry, over the years. However, in view of the new era of modernization and inclusion in the industry, there is room for improvement,” she said.

She enjoined WISTA to complement government’s efforts towards fostering a robust, all-inclusive and gender balanced maritime industry by promoting women’s access to maritime education and training as well as encouraging talented young females to work in the maritime industry.

Earlier in her remarks, President of WISTA, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke, said the objective of the luncheon is to show that there is a need to empower women, increase their number in all cadres of the trade and shipping sector as well as show that women are capable and willing to take on these roles.

She noted that AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-trade by 58.2% through elimination of import duties and progressively eliminating tariffs barriers and making it easier to trade within the continent.

“The AFCFTA can do much to enhance women’s opportunities through cross-border trade, integration into value chains and participation in public procurement systems. To ensure that women entrepreneurs leverage emerging trade opportunities and expanding markets, AfCFTA policy experts and trade negotiators must successfully integrate identified gender concerns into AfCFTA provisions. Moreover, the success of AfCFTA provisions in addressing the gender dimensions of trade must be monitored.

“It is the objective of WISTA Nigeria to showcase that women are taking their rightful place at the forefront of global business, trading and shipping. Additionally, women in the field of trade and shipping cannot afford to miss opportunities to establish an international footprint and this magazine aims to expose these opportunities so they could be maximized.

“Additionally, in this post-COVID era it is important for WISTA Nigeria to gain solid ground across the 36 states in Nigeria, as well as in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This is the time to showcase the abilities of Nigerian women in trade and shipping and the possibility of achieving even greater feats,” she said.

Ezeoke said there is a need for WISTA to work with the Federal government to come up with policies and programmes that will accelerate gender equality, empowerment of women and promote investment opportunities.

Highlights of the event was the launch of the WISTA magazine and presentation of awards to some distinguished stakeholders in the industry including past Presidents of WISTA.

The event was attended by several major industry stakeholders including the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Hasstrup; Chairman, Starzs Investment Company Limited, Engr Greg Ogbeifun; Chairman, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho and scores of women practitioners among several others.