- Says border staff even demand sex from female traders
Cross border traders in West Africa, particularly women, continue to face diverse challenges including extortion and sexual harassment, Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI), has revealed.
It said the conduct of some border officials is in direct contradiction of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation scheme (ETL), a trade instrument that abolishes restriction on goods, which originates from member states, with the grant of import duty waivers and concessions and as such, a threat to the region’s long touted economic integration.
The scheme offers unhindered market access to the 15 member countries and promotes economic relations within the sub-region but despite its existence, GNCCI’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Badu-Aboakye, said the treaties are seldom observed, paving way for extortion and various forms of harassment.
“ECOWAS trade liberalisation clearly states that you can send goods across boarders without harassment, but largely cross border traders going to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Togo are going through a number of challenges; what is stated in the agreement is not what is happening. Some border officials even demand sex from female traders,” Mr. Badu-Aboagye said.
The conduct of some border officials, he lamented, is stifling efforts to sanitise and ease inter-country trade among ECOWAS member states
He spoke during a trade validation workshop on trade treaties in Accra and cited lack of knowledge among some traders on the existence of ECOWAS trade liberalisation treaties and corruption on the part of border officials as reasons for the incessant harassment at the various land borders within the region.
“What we have realised is that, those doing the cross broader trade are not aware of the terms of the agreements, so these border officials end up taking advantage of their ignorance to harass and demand money from them,” he explained.
The workshop, the second in a series, he added, therefore forms part of a fact-finding mission on the various challenges faced by cross border traders, particularly women, within the ECOWAS bloc.
He said the third phase will build the capacity of businesses and associations using data gathered from the second workshop. He said the overarching goal is to completely understand challenges to cross border trade and how together with governments, those challenges can be resolved to ensure smooth movement of goods and persons within ECOWAS and the larger African continent.