ECOWAS, USAID Move to Ease Trade Bottlenecks

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Commissioner for Infrastructure at the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Antoinette Weeks, has said the corridors of the sub-region are riddled with too many physical and soft barriers which are a drawback on the integration agenda.

To address these problems, the ECOWAS Commission, with support from USAID through the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, initiated a study to review the West Africa experience and develop a strategy and action plan for the achievement of corridor management and development goals that take into account lessons learned from international experience.

The objective of the study is to develop a holistic regional strategy and action plan for the implementation of the interstate Corridor Management Institutions to improve the efficiency of transport corridors.

These institutions will be players in improving transport network operations, trade and transport facilitation, free movement of persons and security.

Speaking at a workshop in Accra, Dr Weeks said bad transport networks within the sub-region are affecting intra-regional trade and free movement. This, she said, demands a collective responsibility by all to improve the region’s transport and trade sectors.

She said weak transport infrastructure, as well as trade barriers at borders, are seriously affecting the smooth flow of goods and persons across the sub-region.

“Existing transport corridors are currently not adequately supporting intra-regional trade and free movement. Our corridors are riddled with too many physical and soft barriers, which is unwelcoming to the Regional Integration Agenda of the ECOWAS Community.

The ECOWAS Commission believes that it is our collective responsibility as individuals appointed by our governments to do our part in making significant improvements in advancing the region’s transport and trade sectors,” she said.

According to Dr Weeks, after more than 12 years, the implementation of this institutional framework has registered some very meagre achievements, with the region’s road corridors still suffering from enormous inefficiencies and obstacles in terms of supporting community trade as compared to other regional economic communities on the continent.

She cited the Southern Africa Development Community and East Africa Community which are making great strides in advancing their corridors’ efficiency in terms of time, cost and reliability, which are key ingredients for trade growth.

The study is therefore expected to lead to key findings that will foster economic and social development along the corridors and support internal and external trade in West Africa.

The study has already reached an advanced stage as fieldwork has been carried out in eight ECOWAS member states to review current conditions and performance of interstate corridors, corridor-related constraints faced by businesses in generating economic development and experience with existing corridor institutions.

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