ECOWAS must change course on trade restrictions – High Commissioner

Ghana’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr William Awinador-Kanyirige has described as unacceptable the numerous restrictions to trade among countries in the West Africa sub-region, saying it was frustrating businesses.

Speaking at the Ghana Special Day celebration on the sidelines of the Lagos International Fair 2015, Mr Awinador-Kanyirige said the violation of various ECOWAS protocols that are aimed to boost trade and eliminate extortion along the borders was improper.

He said the practices against businesses were disheartening and it was surprising that the ECOWAS story had remained the same 40 years after the establishment of the economic bloc.

“We are not moving on the protocols that seek to promote trade and development,” Mr Awinador-Kanyirige said.

Trade among West African countries is currently below 10 per cent and this needs to be reversed to enable the region to create jobs and speed up development.

Member states of ECOWAS who are signatories to the various protocols, including free movement of people and goods, blatantly violate the provisions.

Some of the abuses include prohibition lists, exorbitant transit fees, and extortion at the numerous check points, thereby undermining the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme.

Mr Awinador-Kanyirige urged the private sector and civil society organisations to play an active role in ensuring that the ECOWAS protocols work.

Commenting on the theme: “Enhancing Value Addition in the Non-Oil Economy,” Mr Awinador-Kanyirige said Ghana was drawing on the experiences of Nigeria in the oil sector so as to avoid the costly mistake of over-reliance on a single commodity.

“Ghana is also learning from the experiences of countries such as Norway and Trinidad and Tobago to be able to maximise the gains from the oil sector,” he added.

He said there was the vneed to change course and engage in value addition instead of exporting the commodities in the raw form.

Alhaji Aderimi Bello, President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce, advised Ghanaians not to neglect other sectors in favour of the oil sector.

There was also the need to discourage the export of primary products such as cocoa beans and raw groundnuts.

GEPA and the Ghana High Commission in Nigeria are coordinating the participation of 28 companies in the Lagos International Fair 2015, showcasing products including cocoa powder, fruit juice, shea-butter, processed foods, garments, handicrafts and packaging materials.

The Fair is being held from November 6 to November 15.

The Ghana Day celebration was to draw the attention of investors to opportunities in the country and how those opportunities could be tapped. GNA

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