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Gambia to host conference on cross border trade

Apr 29, 2010, 11:48 AM | Article By: Baboucarr Senghore

The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) will on Monday 3rd May 2010 host a three-day stakeholders conference on "Facilitating Intra-ECOWAS and Cross Border Trade," organised by the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Expected to bring together delegates from the 15 ECOWAS countries, the conference aims to build consensus among all stakeholders for the effective implementation of the ECOWAS protocols relating to trade, and to identify all barriers and obstacles to intra-ECOWAS trade.

The conference, among others, seeks to reach a common understanding among all stakeholders (business operators and public officials) on the identified barriers to the implementation of ECOWAS trade-related protocols.

It would also seek to build a consensus among all stakeholders on the practical measures, to be put in place, to remove identified barriers/obstacles, which will eventually result in the establishment of a mechanism at border posts, including harbours and airports for the facilitation of intra-ECOWAS trade.

It would be recalled that the ECOWAS heads of state and government had adopted a series of protocols, aimed at facilitating trade and investment in the ECOWAS sub-region, and helping achieve the objective of full regional integration.

However, critics believe that the implementation of these protocols has not been effective due to reasons identified by various studies conducted on the subject matter. Prominent among them are the lack of political will, ignorance of the business community of the said protocols, and unsavoury practices by the implementing public officers.

Yet, it makes business and economic sense for all stakeholders to appreciate the importance of allowing free flow of trade in our sub region, with the resultant increase of the GDP, employment creation and poverty alleviation.

Furthermore, in this era of increased international cooperation and trade, where countries are removing barriers to trade to give their companies unhindered access to larger markets, such as the European Union, ASEAN, NAFTA, the ECOWAS region cannot continue to be just a group of fragmented markets failing to empower its companies to be competitive internationally, and play a role in the development of the region, especially when it is negotiating the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), with the European Union, and trade and cooperation agreements with China, India and Brazil.

The Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) sees the lifting of all bottlenecks to the implementation of ECOWAS protocols, aimed at facilitating cross-border trade and investment, as an important pillar of its actions in serving the interests of ECOWAS companies, and preparing them for international competition.

In pursuit of its objectives, a workshop on the Popularisation of FEWACCI was held in Accra last December with a view to, among others, identifying issues impeding increased intra-ECOWAS trade.

The organisation of the stakeholders conference on facilitating intra-ECOWAS trade is a sequel to the workshop, and it is aimed at bringing together all stakeholders involved in intra-ECOWAS trade to address the challenges of intra-ECOWAS trade.