Fast Tracking Regional Integration

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Ouedraogo (middle) and the delegates

ECOWAS Commission pushes its regional integration flagship project ahead with the construction of joint border posts to facilitate free movement of people and goods across member states

KADRE Desire Ouedraogo, president of ECOWAS Commission says the regional body is irrevocably committed to facilitating regional integration through effective implementation of its flagship free movement protocol and programmes. The protocol and programmes are designed to promote unfettered circulation of persons, goods and services with a view to improving trade and economic development among member states.

Ouedraogo being briefed by the contractor
Ouedraogo being briefed by the contractor

“There cannot be integration without free movement of people, goods and services,” the president said, during a visit to the Noepe Joint Border Post, JBP, Construction Site on the Togo-Ghana frontier.” The 10.28 million-Euro Noepe project being handled by an indigenous company and which has reached more than 90 percent completion, is one of the seven JBPs along the borders of nine ECOWAS member states – (Nigeria-Benin, Benin-Togo, Togo-Ghana, Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire, Benin-Niger, Ghana-Burkina Faso and Guinea Conakry-Mali).

The seven are being supported under the European Union, EU, Transport Facilitation Project for some African, Caribbean and Pacific, ACP, countries

 One of the project sites
One of the project sites

President Ouédraogo, who led an ECOWAS delegation that included the Commissioner for Infrastructure,  Ebrima Njie and his Finance counterpart,  Khadi Ramatu Saccoh, was joined by Togo’s Minister for Public Works, Ninsao Gnofam and Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Roads and Highways,  Isaac Mensah, during the pre-handover/takeover visit on 10th March 2014.

Ouedraogo at another project site
Ouedraogo at another project site

Commending the two countries for their cooperation and the EU for providing the grant, the ECOWAS chief also paid tribute to the contractor, Societe GER Sarl of Togo, for the high quality of work in the project execution, adding: “we are proud and this shows what we can do working as ECOWAS and our partners.”

He expressed optimism that the issues raised during the inspection would be addressed during an anticipated coordination meeting that would involve all the stakeholders towards rectifying any identified gaps.

“ECOWAS will take all the necessary steps required to put the project into meaningful use,” the president added.

Expressing similar positive sentiments, Gnofam, commended ECOWAS for the JBP initiative, noting that the benefits of the project to the community were enormous. He also recommended that the observations made during the pre-handover/takeover visit would be addressed by the suggested coordination meeting.

Delegates during the press briefing
Delegates during the press briefing

On his part, Mensah said ECOWAS should be proud of the fact that an indigenous company handled the project to their satisfaction, “unlike in the past when we had to look up to developed countries for such works.”

Noepe is to serve as a model for the JBPs, from the EU grant of 63.8 million Euros to ECOWAS under the EU Transport Facilitation Project covered by the 9th EU Development Fund, EDF.

Each JBP is divided into zones for passenger operations, freight/transit handling and livestock inspection.

Zone A (General Administration) is for accomplishing required formalities of the flows of pedestrians and passengers’ vehicles; Zone B (Customs Brigades) is for handling of Freight (heavy vehicles), while Zone C (Livestock Park) is for the regulatory inspections of animals.

The JBP programme was borne out of the desire by the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of the main transport corridors in West Africa so as to boost inter- and intra-regional trade as well as international trade which is a key factor of growth and contributor to poverty alleviation.

A different but related JBP project for the Nigeria-Cameroon border is being supported by the African Development Bank, AfDB, with a grant of USD$26.5 million.

The overarching aim of the JBPs is to facilitate cross-border transport and movement by removing non-tariff barriers to transit thereby reducing transport costs and minimising transit time for persons, goods and services.

Politically, this will also bring together border administrators from country pairs as well as give a sense of regional integration, unity and security.

Also at Noepe for the pre-handover/takeover visit, were the ECOWAS Project Advisor/Focal Point Emmanuel Chiejine, the Project Manager, Victor Houewatonou and GER Togo officials led by the Company’s Chief Executive, Frederic Lequessim.

— Mar. 31, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

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