It appears that attempts to stamp out harassments, human rights violations, extortions and other challenges associated with cross border trading in West Africa are yielding less results than previously reported.
It is in spite of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) which stipulates that traders can trade duty free and quota free across the borders within the sub-region without any harassment.
Consequently, a preliminary assessment on challenges faced by small scale cross border traders commissioned by the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) identified that due to lack of information traders were still subjected to human rights violations, sexual harassments and accusations of extortion by customs officials and other security agencies operating across borders in the sub-region.
The objective of the research is to identify priority needs for assistance, training and capacity of trades associations, along with those representing women traders in West Africa.
It also seeks to deliver support services to small-scale cross border traders and women in particular as well as contribute to capacity-building and awareness-raising of members of trades associations.
At a validation workshop by the GNCCI in Accra on October 22, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the chamber, Mr Mark Badu-Aboagye, stated that the success of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) depends on the regional economic bloc such as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“We have signed a number of agreements for instance the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) which clearly indicates that you can send your goods duty free and quota free across the borders without any harassment.
“But largely small-scale cross border traders who trade in Togo, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire are going through a lot of challenges trading at the borders, despite the agreement.
“The traders complain of harassment, one thing we have identified is that the traders do not know what is in the agreement and so they get to the border and they are asked to pay some amount of money and then they pay because they want to return to their destination to do their business.
“And so, we are trying to help traders, especially women, to be able to trade across the neighboring countries without challenges,” he said.
The CEO also noted that the business associations were expected to build capacity of these cross-border traders but they were lacking in certain areas.
He said this programme was a sustainable way of providing business support services to members of the chamber.
“Today we are validating the information that we gathered from businesses and seeking more input from other people,” he said.
Touching on the findings, the Head of Research and Advocacy at GNCCI, Mr Julius Bradford Lamptey, stated that the main priority needs of the association were financial management, product standardisation, sales coaching, packaging, prospecting and market research, as well as transportation.
“Generally, the delivery of service to members was good. However, some of the services required by members were non-available or poorly delivered which include negotiations and signing of business contracts, transportation, commercial litigation, and direct intervention in checkpoints.
“Focusing on small scale cross-border traders, their main priority needs were capacity building, training, technical assistance, credit-financing,” he said.
The Deputy Director and Head of Trade Facilitation at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI), Mr Kyeremeh Yeboah, urged traders to report the challenges they often face doing business with neighboring counties.
This, he said, would help MoTI with the right information to address the situation.
“The ministry will soon set up a gender sub-committee in the trade facilitation committee to address gender specific issues as women trade across the borders,” he said.