The Director of Customs, of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Salifou Tiemtore, has indicated that ECOWAS has struggled to exercise its full authority in terms of the uniform implementation of protocols and policies rolled out by the regional body as far as ensuring trade facilitation among member countries is concerned.
In a discussion held on the sidelines of the Borderless Alliance 2019 conference in Accra, the Director of Customs of the West African Regional body of ECOWAS explained the challenges regarding enforceability of intra-regional trade policies and protocols among ECOWAS member states.
He touched on the need for member countries to be compliant in implementing policies introduced by the regional body which are mainly intended to improve the growth of member countries.
He revealed that national leaders are quick to sign on to trade agreements but later on fail to implement them because the leaders do not thoroughly engage
in detail negotiations prior to signing those agreements.
“We are currently negotiating the Free Trade Area agreement, but I can bet you not many people in Ghana here can tell you what it involves, but Ghana and many countries have signed on. Sometimes it doesn’t even mitigate interests of the country as a whole,” he revealed.
Ziad Hamoui, National President of Borderless Alliance, described the status quo as an issue of political instability, and other security risks as well as inadequate capacity building on the part of Technocrats who are responsible for the various researches into issues for policy formulations.
“We have to admit that West Africa is still going through relatively not too secured area. We are doing better for example in terms of democratic elections but we are still having some security risks. I think there is also an issue of capacity building. We have serious under capacity within the government agencies that are in charge of negotiations, not just in terms of trade, but transportation, economics,” he added.
The Director of Customs, ECOWAS, revealed that the regional body doesn’t have a sanctioning mechanism that checks noncompliance of member countries in trade facilitation agreements they have signed unto; hinting that the assumed sovereignty of member countries makes ECOWAS numb in their attempts to sanction.
“You have to know that in the way ECOWAS is functioning, we don’t have a system of sanctioning that is taken up by the ECOWAS itself. That means if a country is to be sanctioned for not implementing one regulation or another, the Commission can just make a report describing the wrongdoing, but the decision to sanction has to come from the head of states,” the Director of Customs at ECOWAS disclosed.
Dr. Wolfgang Zeller, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh working on African Governance, disclosed that these complexities are common in other sub-regional bodies like the South African Development Corporation (SADC).
He stated that policy integrations between countries are working at the executive level, but attributed these circumstances of failed implementation on the ground to the state of affairs where many Africans survive off corrupt measures especially in the transport sector.
“You have some people on the ground who make their living from getting something from transport. You have people who are at the weighbridges who need to make a living, and the central state, for example in Zambia is not paying their salaries, so they take money from the truckers and pass them. In DRC the corruption is on another level. You can call it corruption, or a survival mode.”