Improved infrastructure’ll boost cross-border trade –WAACBT

By Merit Ibe, 

As African countries  push for implementation of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, the President of West Africa Association for Cross Border Trade, Salami Alasoadua, has urged governments of the West African sub region to step up their infrastructure to boost trade in the  region.

Alasoadua, who  made the call in Lagos, noted that  ‘Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic’  needed to develop infrastructure along the  borders to improve trade. 

“We need to develop infrastructure along our borders.  We need lorry parks to ease  movement at the borders. 

We need to involve the broader communities in terms of policy. By doing this, we can also resolve the issue of lack of information.

“People need to be informed. If I want to trade and want to go to Ghana, it is important for me to know what the local policy in Ghana is, what the regional policy is all about, among other things. These information are important.

“So, in West Africa, there is lack of information. This is one of the major areas that we are having problems. For example, when you go to Seme Border, if somebody is sick, you have to rush him to Benin, because there are no health centres at Seme border. Infrastructure is needed, we need to provide jobs to minimise smuggling and reduce insecurity. I think our governments need to do a lot.

Also, he emphasised the need for Customs’ connectivity.

“We need to exchange information.  Why do we have an office at Cotonou. The role of that office is to inform on happenings. Nigeria should take a lead. When Nigeria takes leadership, it will come to fruition. 

“The volume of trade is too huge to neglect the vital things. The Lagos-Abuja corridor is representing 19 percent of Economic Community of West African  States (ECOWAS) trade.  There is the Thema Port, Takura port, Abidjan port.  70 per cent of goods leaving those ports are coming to Nigeria.”

Dr. Ezra Yakusak, the Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), recommended that attention be paid to the Informal Cross-Border Trade (ICBT) in West Africa and how stakeholders can harness the potential it presents and leverage on it for utmost participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

“In as much as cross border trade can either be formal or informal, depending on the angle we want to focus, there are also border markets which are key hubs of social and business exchange in border regions and with very particular characteristics. These trade hubs around border regions are the spring for informal trade and export in the West Africa sub-region.

“One major characteristic of informal trade is the high profit margin by the traders as they avoid government tariffs and do not follow laid down procedures and documentation; which sometimes can be cumbersome and time consuming.”

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