An independent International Trade Expert, Rowland Aggor, has observed that since the formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional grouping over three decades ago, its mission to promote economic integration is still faced with a lot of challenges.
According to him, non-compliance by some Member States to grant zero duty rate to approved products, prohibitions and ban on community goods by some member states, higher administrative charges (legal and illegal) at border posts and check points, cumbersome implementation and clearance procedures at the borders and ports, among others are seriously frustrating business men and women and also breeding unnecessary hatred and conflict among citizens of member states.
Speaking at a two-day sensitisation and information workshop on international trade issues in Tamale with emphasis on ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and its implementation challenges and other ECOWAS protocols, ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET), the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and other topical issues, Mr. Aggor recommended strict compliance and respect for ECOWAS trade policies by all member states in order to ensure free movement of goods and people as enshrined in the ECOWAS Constitution.
He called for the institution of a mechanism to forestall the unilateral imposition of ban on imports by any member country, continuous sensitisation of economic operators, civil society organisations and border operatives and establishment of ECOWAS Desk and complaint unit at the borders.
Mr. Aggor also recommended learning of both official languages like English and French by border operatives (Customs, Excise and Preventive Service and Immigration Officials), removal of all non-tariff barriers to trade, among others.
However, participants expressed dissatisfaction about the participation of retail businesses by foreigners from neighbouring countries like Niger (Zambarama) and Nigeria (Ibos and Yorubas) saying it is an affront on the ECOWAS and Ghana’s trade regulations.
They asked government to strictly enforce the laws of in order to save businesses of Ghanaians from total collapse.
ECOWAS was founded in May 28th, 1975, with the signing of the Lagos Treaty. Its mission is to promote economic integration. In 1976 Cape Verde joined ECOWAS, and in December 2000 Mauritania withdrew having announced its intention to do so in December 1999.
Current members include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo excluding Guinea, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire suspended after 2008, 2009 and 2010 coup d'état, auto-coup and political instability respectfully.
The regional body’s aims and objectives are to generate self-sustaining economic growth through collective action in all fields of social and economic activities and create a fully integrated and internationally competitive region where goods, services, capital, labour and persons move freely.
The region has a total land area of about 5.7million square kilometers, population of 261.8 (2006 estimates), inflation of 5.7% (2004 estimates), total GDP U$ 389,519 Billion (2005 estimates), Per Capita $7,890 in 2005, Total Exports of US$ 70 billion-2009 estimates down from about US$ 106 billion in 2008 and Intra ECOWAS trade about $6 billion-2009 estimates, according to ECOWAS website.
Since Ghana started participating in ETLS about 266 registered companies have been involved in various kinds of trade in the sub-region.