Fri, Oct

We need to work harder at regional integration

Last Monday, the Ghana Haulage Transport Association accused some Francophone countries in the West African sub-region of constantly harassing and showing very little respect for the ECOWAS Brown Card Insurance issued by insurance companies in Ghana.

Since the formation of ECOWAS as a regional bloc comprising 15 West African countries on May 28, 1975, with its main goal being the promotion of economic integration among its members, not much has been accomplished, apart from regular meetings among member states.

While we laud the founders for thinking up the idea of establishing a broad trading bloc among countries in the sub-region, we also believe it is an undeniable fact that progress towards regional integration has been rather painfully slow.

Traders in ECOWAS countries, especially Ghana, have complained time without number about the stress, illegal payments, harassment and waste of precious time they experience just moving goods from one country to another. 

This is not to mention the poor condition of the roads on which they have to travel, despite the age-old talk of a trans-African highway network.

Talks on a common currency for the sub-region to be known as the Eco have hit a dead end and it is uncertain if that plan will ever materialise.

Of course, we know that there are various national issues, as well as the harmonisation of the two main Francophone and Anglophone blocs, that need to be tackled for the proper integration of the sub-region.

But when will that be?

The Daily Graphic believes that 41 years is long enough for ECOWAS to have made greater strides in forging closer links among nations in the sub-region to become a strong force to contend with, just like the European Union and other regional blocs.

We have not lost sight of the few gains we have made, such as visa-free movement among countries in the sub-region and the use of the ECOWAS biometric passport.

We are also not oblivious of the challenges that regional blocs do experience, such as happened recently in the EU, with Britain leaving the union in the famous Brexit move.

However, there are a lot of gains to be enjoyed with proper integration, such as a common road and rail network, which has inured to the benefit of other blocs, with movement from one country to another being done effortlessly just as the movement of people within the same country.

We urge leaders in the sub-region to work harder at ensuring the seamless movement of people and goods across the various borders by removing any vestiges of restrictions to free movement. 

As has been successfully done with the waiver of visas for travel across the sub-region, we can also let other travel documents such as the ECOWAS Brown Card work. We only need to firm them up and ensure that all countries are in agreement with their use.