Boost for cross-border trade
TradeMark Africa (TMA) and Ghana have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to host and provide direction to facilitate work on eliminating bottlenecks on the Abidjan – Lagos corridor.
The corridor is responsible for the transit of about 78 percent of trade volumes in West Africa, and links five major countries in the sub-region: namely Côte d’Ivoire; Ghana; Togo; Benin; and Nigeria. In spite of this, as well as implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the route still grapples with some 37 official checkpoints or barriers causing prolonged cross-border trade – with the two extreme ends taking as long as about 15 days.
The partnership is therefore expected to eliminate barriers impeding the efficiency of trade and causing prolonged turnaround.
Caretaker Minister of Trade and Industry, Samuel Abu Jinapor – speaking at the signing ceremony in the Eastern Region, said the agreement will provide technical and funding support to reduce the time and costs of trading across borders, and improve West African bloc’s export competitiveness.
He mentioned that the collaboration, which started in December 2021, ensured a thorough corridor assessment that revealed a need for mutually beneficial corporation between the five countries to improve trade facilitation and Customs clearance – at both ports and land borders.
“This MoU captures the vision of African leaders and ambitions of citizens for the transformation of our continent as expressed in agenda 2063, to unleash the prosperity and economic liberalisation of Africa. While each government has put in place initiatives to advance this course, TMA’s initiatives are uniquely placed to ensure better Customs’ cooperation and facilitation of trade, especially across important trade corridors like this.
“The greatest challenge for our sub-region has remained how to ease the burden of land cross-border trading between Anglophone and Francophone West African countries, especially for micro and small enterprises (MSME). Now we are not far from achieving that,” he said.
He added that AfCFTA puts great responsibility on governments to ensure easy access to cross-border trade without any further delays, especially now that technical and financial support has been secured.
TradeMark Africa’s Board Chairperson, Erastus Mwencha, remarked that eliminating barriers to cross-border trade is the surest way to unleash the immense impact that free trade in high-value products can offer individual economies as intended by the AfCFTA.
“As part of the pivot to West Africa, TradeMark Africa will support the secretariat of AfCFTA based in Accra to realise its vision of integrating the US$3.4trillion African market. We will work with member-states to ensure governments and businesses benefit practically from the opportunities presented by these shifts; in particular, along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor.
“Our key aim remains trade facilitation, just like we have always done in the last 12 years in the East and Horn of Africa region – where time for cross-border trade has been slashed by 70 percent on average and businesses can receive certification in a day,” he said.
For his part, Secretary-General of AfCFTA secretariat, Wamkele Mene, reiterated that the corridor controls about 78 percent of trade volume in the West African sub-region; hence, successful elimination of its numerous barriers will bring about efficiency and enhance interconnection of the sub-region.
“The secretariat sees this MoU today as an important milestone because we know that leveraging on the technical expertise of TMA as an implementing agency – which we do not have, will help us reach our goal. There are pockets of success chalked up by the various blocs on the continent, but the missing link is the integration of these pockets of success on the various corridors like the East African example; and so what we need to do is to interconnect the corridors to ensure collective competitiveness,” he added.