Towards a Free ECOWAS Market

Ahmed Hamid, Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Industry and Free Movement
Ahmed Hamid, Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Industry and Free Movement

The Economic Commission of West African States and the West African Monetary Institute launch a trade facilitation support project to remove intra community trade barriers

|  By Maureen Chigbo  |  Mar. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

ECOWAS Commission and the West African Monetary Institute, WAMI, are to launch a trade facilitation support project to address the barriers militating against intra-community trade. The project is designed to enable the region realise its full trade potentials and benefits. The motivation for the project followed a study done in October 2012 by ministers of Trade of the four-nation West African Monetary Zone, WAMZ, which is working to create a second currency as part of the process for a single regional monetary union.  Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia are the WAMZ member States.

The project will specifically enable the WAMZ countries address the deficiencies identified in a-2012 joint study by ECOWAS and WAMI which assessed the capacity of the monetary zone countries to effectively implement national and regional trade integration policies in line with the region’s common market and monetary integration aspirations.

In addition, it will help address “significant deficiencies in human capacity and trade facilitation processes required for cross-border trade which is less than five per cent in the WAMZ, and 15 per cent in the ECOWAS region, identified in the 2012 study.

“We are in the preparatory stage of carrying out that directive,” said Abwaku Engrama, director-general of the West African Monetary Institute, WAMI, in a speech in Accra, March 7, at the opening of the 8th meeting of the ECOWAS/WAMI joint task force on trade-related issues.

John Tei Kitcher, director of WAMI’s Multilateral Surveillance Department,  said the proposal for the study was among the issues for discussion at the three-day Accra joint task force meeting. He also said the report of the 2012 study has been printed in a book form and expressed the hope that this could be transformed into an annual publication on trade integration in WAMZ countries as a veritable reference material on relevant issues.

Nelson Magbegbeola, the leader of the ECOWAS delegation and acting director of Multilateral Surveillance at the Commission, said the joint task force has provided a platform for collaboration on integration and trade-related issues in recognition of the critical role of trade to economic and monetary union.

“This is premised on the fact that without smooth trade flows among ECOWAS member states, including countries of WAMZ, there cannot be any meaningful economic and monetary union, he affirmed, adding: “the essence of a common currency among countries of a monetary union is to facilitate trade among them.”

He said that unless “trade and trade-related constraints, among others, are addressed within ECOWAS, there cannot be a credible and sustainable common currency in the WAMZ.” He stressed the need to remove all bottlenecks or barriers that hamper trade flows among member states.

The joint task force sessions will feature presentations on the project, the critieria for assessing performance on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS, the Convention on inter-state road transport, and the establishment of a transit corridor agency. There will also be an update on the application of sanctions regime for any breach of the ECOWAS protocols, the status of harmonisation of indirect taxes/VAT and customs code, as well as a discussion of the 2013 work programme for the joint task froce and proposals for a standing committee on the ETLS.

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