Trade practitioner, advocate and pundit, Ziad Hamoui has acknowledged the difficulty associated with finding an effective balance between trade facilitation and security.
However, he has urged state authorities and stakeholders within the trade sector of West African countries to enhance efforts such as risk profiling, and cross-national, cross-sector collaborations which will be able to adequately address barriers to trade while helping states maintain sound security.
Ziad Hamoui, who is the National President of the private sector-led trade advocacy organization, Borderless Alliance made his thoughts known on Eye on Port.
He made these remarks while analysing the state of trade facilitation across the West African Borders, and identifying associated challenges.
Mr. Hamoui chronicled the shutdown and reopening of borders where he maintained that the disuniform reopening of borders demonstrated by African countries has had its negative effect on cross border trade.
He said while many countries had for a long period opened their borders to commercial vehicles, travel restrictions for people have impeded the flow of cross border trade.
“For example if you go to Cote D’Ivoire, the borders are closed. You can leave Elubo but you will get stuck at their side.”
Mr. Hamoui stated that, “even if the corridors are open for the movement of commercial vehicles, there is still that difficulty in the movement of people and until we get to a time where we have the normalization of free movement of people, trade will be stagnant because trade moves where people move. This has created uncertainty within the business space, so people have been unable to adequately plan and anticipate.”
These restrictions according to him, go beyond safety measures against the spread of COVID 19, but also a deliberate effort by nations in the wake of political unrests and widespread insecurities in certain areas of the continent.
According to the National President of Borderless Alliance, if strategic collaborative approaches are not taken, trade facilitation will suffer at the expense of excessive nationalism.
“At the end of the day, countries have to look at the risk element and enhance risk profiling and based on that, you address the core roots of the problem so we can reduce the risks,” he said.
This approach, Mr. Hamoui said, is better than the outright, ad-hoc closure of borders, which do not serve Africa’s trade liberalization objectives.
According to the trade advocate, aside the restrictions that have emerged out of nations’ desire to mitigate the wave of health and security threats, cross border trading in West Africa is becoming increasingly expensive, creating extra barriers to trade.
“We know that some traders are compliant but some others are not. On the other hand, we know some agencies are not facilitating trade at the level they are supposed to even when traders are compliant. Sometimes money exchanges are made, and with these activities, economic losses are incurred,” he elaborated.
The National President of Borderless Alliance did not fail to mention the numerous security checkpoints and barriers along the various West African corridors, where he recalled that the number of such along Ghana’s corridor was approximately 75, last time he checked.
He acknowledged that while security reasons are reasonable, the numerous checkpoints open the corridor up to corruption and uncompetitiveness.
He made a strong appeal to authorities to simplify and make affordable, trade processes in order to encourage increased trade activities especially for the informal, small scale trade sector, which represent the large chunk of businesses within the region.
Ziad Hamoui, reiterated that for success to be seen in regional protocols and interventions intended to improve trade facilitation, political will is of utmost importance.