ECOWAS advocates speedy removal of artificial barriers to trade


Chairman of the Economic Community of West of African States (ECOWAS) Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) Task Force, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, has called for immediate steps to remove artificial barriers to regional trade.

He bemoaned that long delays, bureaucratic procedures, frequent illicit fees and high cost of doing business continue to limit ease of trading among ECOWAS members, further weakening competitiveness of the region’s manufacturers and businesses.

“It is time we joined efforts to find long-lasting solutions to our region’s many problems, which are affecting our regional integration and slowing down our region’s economic development,” he stressed.

He reiterated regional integration has far too long to be realided, and that there is a need for urgent, concerted and pragmatic solutions to scale up trade among member-states in a bid to accelerate ECOWAS economies’ development and, ultimately, lift millions of people out of poverty.

He raised the issue in his goodwill message at the 10th Annual Regional Borderless Conference in Tema, hosted by the Ghana Shippers Authority in collaboration with the Ministries of Food and Agriculture and Trades and Industry. The conference was themed ‘Strengthening agricultural value chains to compete in a global market’.

According to him, true regional integration, as envisaged by the founding fathers of ECOWAS, can only be achieved through the removal of artificial barriers created by the colonialists and connecting member-states in terms of trade.

“We need to build bridges between our member-states and enhance trade flows between surplus and deficit areas, with each member-state bringing its products to the regional common market,” he emphasised.

Dr. Ibn Chambas therefore commended Borderless Alliance for sustained advocacy across the region, building a platform that allows collaboration with regional economic communities, economic operators, state agencies, uniform authorities, organised private sector associations and a wide range of institutional partners toward tackling the many barriers preventing the free movement of goods and people across West Africa – particularly dealers in food, perishables and agricultural products.

Chief Executive Officer-Ghana Shippers Authority, Benonita Bismarck, for her part stated that successful economies around the globe were able to achieve such feats by ensuring seamless movement of goods, services, and people, ensuring that essential products reach their intended destinations with minimum delays.

She believes that an improved transportation network, removal of non-tariff barriers and elimination of unwarranted economic obstacles will enhance the competitiveness of industries within the ECOWAS bloc.

Ms. Bismarck disclosed that her outfit, through a collaboration effort with Borderless Alliance, has developed an E-platform that allows shippers to obtain real-time assistance when they encounter challenges while using Ghana’s corridors – whether for international trade facilitation or for transit to land-linked countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

She expressed GSA’s excitement with the ongoing collaboration, and expressed commitment to continue ensuring that the sub-region achieves its goal of borderless trade between its people and industries.

Jonas Lago, President-Borderless Alliance, on his part lamented that despite the abundance of vast potential arable land and human resources, the region and continent as a whole continually plays second-fiddle in agricultural performances and food security – to the extent that countries like India and China have overtaken Africa in rice production.

He again lamented how the main cocoa producing countries in West Africa gain a paltry six percent of the financial profits from the world chocolate market.

Mr. Lago cited infrastructure deficit, low agro-processing capacity and climate change as the major banes to agriculture production, while insufficiency of intra-continental trade is also an obvious drawback as the International Trade Centre estimates that intra-ECOWAS trade stands at a lowly 15 percent.

In attendance were maritime sector players, agribusiness operators, captains of industries and representatives from allied government departments and agencies.

Leave a Reply