The Vice-President of the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Mr Emmanuel Adu-Sarkodie, has called on ECOWAS member states to work at reducing the high trade cost in the subregion.
He said the development had negatively affected trade volumes, with trade among member countries at just about 10 per cent of all the trade activities that were undertaken in the subregion.
Addressing a meeting between the ECOWAS Commission and the Federation of West African Employer Associations (FWAEA) in Accra yesterday, Mr Adu-Sarkodie said: “The volume of trade between member countries is still not encouraging. Our propensity to import from and export to third party countries and the advanced world has dominated our trade statistics”.
The meeting discussed issues about intra-trade protocols in the subregion.
Mr Adu-Sarkodie said the trade pattern among countries in the subregion weakened the regional integration that ECOWAS was seeking to build.
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He stated that the uncertainties characterising the exit of Britain from the European Union (EU) and the ongoing trade war between the USA and China was making the global economic space volatile by the day, hence the need for the formulation of and implementation of incentives to motivate and augment intra-regional trade.
Mr Adu-Sarkodie also said the subregion could realise effective industrialisation by ensuring macroeconomic stability, sustainable energy production, skills development and regional security if internal trade was boosted.
For employers and businesses to stay competitive in the sub-region, he suggested that electricity must be affordable, reliable and consumed efficiently, while focusing on renewable energy policies for sustainable energy production.
Touching on regional security, the GEA Vice-President said it was necessary for ECOWAS and other regional blocs to secure and maintain regional peace for businesses to thrive.
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, who also addressed the meeting, said the government recognised the challenges private sector players faced in transacting business in West Africa.
“We painfully take cognisance of the fact that the business environment explains why you [private sector players] are struggling to grow and failing to generate good jobs. We are well aware that the formal activities are deterred by an unfriendly business environment with high unit costs and a heavy-handed, often corrupt bureaucracy,” he said.
He, therefore, underscored the need for member states to reduce trade barriers, especially in the agricultural and manufacturing industries.
He said West Africa’s unfavourable environment was the main cause of the formal private sector “atrophying and the informal sector booming.”
Mr Ahenkorah stated that costs due to Customs, financing, lack of transparency in tax collection and inadequate public infrastructure for transport and energy reduced companies competitiveness.
He said the government of Ghana, for its part, was determined to work hand in hand with the private sector to develop the business environment.
The deputy minister said the children of today were demanding from leaders of the country, an economy that was owned and controlled by the indigenous people.
“We stretch a working hand to you the private sector to support us in our endeavour to bring hope to our young people. We believe and count on your ingenuity and creativity to support government in improving the livelihoods of the teeming youth who are out there looking for jobs,” he said.
Mr Ahenkorah said the government would support companies to institute mentorship programmes, skills development projects, reduce overtime hours and create more jobs for the youth.
At his turn, the President of the FWAEA, Mr Jean-Marie Ackah, said it was important for ECOWAS to focus on programmes for the private sector since it was creating jobs and generating resources necessary for the member states to succeed in achieving their social and economic development policies.