least three member countries of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, namely
Guinea Bissau, Senegal and The Gambia
recently conveyed a caravan on Banjul–Ziquinchor corridor to collect
data related to administrative challenges on the corridor.
The caravan is targeted to determine for the three countries together with various stakeholders what the barriers are to the free movement of people and goods on the corridor, documenting the effectiveness of ECOWAS laws regarding the movement of people and goods on the corridor.It further targets to list the number of check-points on this corridor and sensitizing and helping agents in charge of check-points to acquaint themselves with challenges related to the enforcement of ECOWAS laws and letting road users learn their fundamental rights in relation to freedom of movement.
According to the leader of the organizing team from Senegal, Alexandra Gomez, ECOWAS was created in 1975 charged with the responsibility to promote cooperation and integration with the prospect of an Economic Union of West Africa as well as to raise people’s standard of living, maintain and increase economic stability, strengthen relations between Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the continent.
Over 40 years since the establishment of Ecowas, the free movement of people and goods has been some of the regional bloc’s achievements with regards to the two pillars of regional integration.
According to Mr. Gomez, the free movement of people now a day implies the removal of visa requirements in all ECOWAS Member States; recognition of residence and establishment of rights for the citizens of the Community; institution of the ECOWAS biometric identity card to further enhance intra-regional mobility in addition to the ECOWAS passport.
In addition to the above-mentioned measures that make it possible for the citizens of the Community to enter, live and settle freely, ECOWAS plans to achieve by 2020 a “Region without borders” where the citizens of the Community will travel and carry out their activities without any hindrance. It means turning the ECOWAS of the States into the ECOWAS of the Peoples.
Mr. Gomez said with regards to the free movement of goods and with a view to creating a common market, ECOWAS has made a significant achievement with the adoption of the Trade Liberalization Scheme (SLE); “instrument for promoting and intensifying intra-Community trade” and the Common External Tariff “CET” which entered into force on 1 January 2015.
Despite efforts made by ECOWAS Member States in the area of integration, the overall picture does not reflect ECOWAS’ ambitions. Yet, some progress has been made to promote the free movement of people and goods, even though a lot of barriers impede the effective enforcement of Protocols regarding the free movement of people and goods. People are still being harassed on the roads and at border posts, in addition to many fundamental rights violations in terms of the free movement of people and goods.
Now travelers, road users and check-point officers need to be informed and sensitized on challenges related to community-based standards regarding the free movement of people and goods.
An ECOWAS Citizens’ House was inaugurated on August 1, 2015 to support States-made efforts to enable integration from the bottom. Its aim is to help ECOWAS become part of people’s everyday life in Southern Senegambia by creating conditions that are conducive to citizens’ ownership of the integration process.