Apapa Port: Bala Usman on How to Restructure, Improve Port Efficiency
On this week’s episode of ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, host Zain Asher reports from Apapa port, Nigeria’s busiest port, revealing how the country is seeking to restructure, improve efficiency and reaffirm its importance to the nation’s economy.
Asher meets the Port Authority’s Managing Director at Apapa port – and for the first time ever, the position is held by a woman, Hadiza Bala Usman.
Appointed by Nigeria’s President in 2016, Usman oversees almost 4,000 employees across six different ports and maps out what needs to be improved to CNN: “We noted a level of inefficiency attributed to a certain level of corruption… We believe human intervention by government individuals allows access and avenues where there would be a request for a gratification by these public officials.”
There has been a perception that to avoid long waiting times to transport goods at the port, an individual would have to know a government official or pay a bribe, but now the Port Authority is looking to reduce times for all cargo.
Usman tells Asher that the average was previously a 10 day wait, and now they’re looking to reduce this to a three-day period. However, boosting efficiency at these ports is not solely a government task, with container operations managed by APM Terminals.
Martin Jacob, the Managing Director of APM Terminals, outlines the reductions they’ve already seen to Asher: “Capacity of the port went from 300,000 TUs to a million TUs as of today, so we have made an impact. Dwell time has dropped from 35 days to 10 days.”
For business owners, the efficiency of the ports is vital for both exporting and importing goods. ‘Marketplace Africa’ speaks to Mohamed Fouani, the Managing Director of the Fouani Group, who has used the docks since 2001.
Fouani explains the progress he’s experienced as a customer of the ports in this time: “If you want to compare the ports today to 17 years back, today is like 100 times better… Today in many parts of the world they can clear their containers within 24 hours. Here we haven’t reached to this level of ease yet. We have issues with the roads. The road to Apapa port is in very bad shape.”
CNN hears how the road leading to the port was in such bad condition, it was shut down in June for a yearlong renovation project – and in turn, causing further delays.
To avoid this, Usman tells Asher how the port is looking to be less reliant on road transport, and is employing rail and inland waterways as alternative solutions. This is alongside a further $100 million investment to purchase more vessels and a new IT system for the Apapa port.
As these renovations take place during a demanding time for the economy, business leaders such as Mohamed Fouani are focusing on the long-term benefits of the project, as he explains to Asher: “We would like to see instant operations like you see in Dubai, Singapore, and other places where we can treat all government documentation in advance, before the operation of vessels. We expect the market to double, if not more, in the next 10 years. So, our capacity of chain supply must at least double and get more sophisticated. This is a challenge for the government, for the private operators who run the ports, and even business operators.”