Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 June 2020:
West African nations are beginning to assess whether it is time to re-open their borders for trade and free movement of people. Since the first case of coronavirus was announced in the region three months ago, there have been debates about the impact the global pandemic is having on the regional economy as well as the economy of respective member States.
Writing in a statement published last week – 17th June 2020, the ECOWAS Ministerial Coordination Committee on Transport, Logistics and Trade made key recommendations on the harmonization and gradual re-opening of land, air and sea borders for restoring cross border economic activities, especially the movement of humanitarian personnel, medical supplies and equipment and essential goods in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those recommendations will be discussed at the next Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
The ECOWAS Ministerial Coordination Committee Ministers discussed and agreed practical measures based on the report of the regional experts, as well as the draft Guidelines for the Harmonization and Facilitation of Cross Border Trade & Transport in the ECOWAS Region on the Covid-19 Pandemic and Related Post-Recovery Actions.
The ECOWAS Ministerial Coordination Committee Ministers recommended a gradual and coordinated opening of land borders and airports of ECOWAS Member States based on health data on the evolution of the pandemic. They also called for appropriate fiscal measures to be put in place by respective governments to support the effective implementation of the guidelines.
According to the report, the opening of the borders must be based on the proposed guidelines for the mitigation of health risks and the harmonization and facilitation of cross-border trade and transport in the ECOWAS region in the context of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The need to reopen borders, sea and airports they said is driven by the urge to begin to revive the economies of ECOWAS member countries.
The Ministers recommended a three-phased approach, beginning with local, internal, domestic, air and land transport within ECOWAS Member States, then a second phase which involves the opening of land and air borders.
Following a review of the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in respective Member States, a third phase of opening air and land borders to other countries with low and controlled levels (according to WHO classifications) of COVID-19 contamination rates will be pursued.
The Ministers further called for accurate information sharing on opening-up measures among Member States in the spirit of solidarity, collective self-reliance and inter-State co-operation through bilateral and multilateral consultations. They also called for the need to ensure speedy and safer clearance of transit goods at the borders and minimize physical contact in customs, cross-border trade transactions through the rapid deployment of the new ECOWAS Interconnected Goods and Transit Management System popularly termed SIGMAT.
ECOWAS ministers called for provision of such information to private sector actors namely shipping lines, Airlines, cross-border transporters and traders, media and civil society, while ensuring strong collaboration at borders among control agencies.
Owing to the need to ensure an effective coordination mechanism to follow-up implementation of the guidelines at both national and regional levels, the Ministers called for the use of existing State or regional structures and committees responsible for ensuring the proper application of the protocols on free movement on Community corridors and borders of national and regional trade.
The Ministerial Coordinating Committee, chaired by Nigeria’s Aviation Minister Senator Hadi Sirika, made a plea for “strong and determined support for the ownership and implementation of the guidelines” once adopted by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
Fascinating stuff. But did the ECOWAS committee discuss the concerns of President Buhari over the ECO. I said it from the beginning that Sierra Leone should not join the ECO. Are they still listening to my concerns? Anyway, SALEXIT will not be very far away in my view. Read this appalling article from Reuters – https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-westafrica-currency/nigerias-buhari-sees-threat-to-west-african-currency-plan-idUSKBN23U324
God bless our LEONE. Amen and Amen.
I found it hard to believe sometimes, its easier to transport goods to the markets of Europe, or North America or in some cases to China, than within the ECOWAS sub region member states. Even before the COVID19 pandemic hit, problems of logistics, and bureaucracy have always hindered trade of goods and and service in the region. The lack of good roads and Air flights delays, or in some cases none existent at all is a major stumbling block to the sub-region’s development. SADAC, its opposite number in East and South Africa, is doing better than us. Back in the seventies and eighties the region of East and South Africa were the trouble regions of Africa.
Thanks to Charles Taylor for bringing war to West Africa, we have now swap places as the epicentre of instability in Africa. The only thing that seemed to work in the west African sub region that doesn’t come under the Eagle eye of the sub regional authorities are those that pile their trade on human trafficking and gun runners. With that comes freelance Islamic terrorist. For far too long the west African sub-region governments are unable to reconcile themselves in tackling this form of modern day slave trade. It seemed to me anything that helps to improve the lives of our people, is never nurtured, enhanced, and improved.
The only thing that seems to thrive is the one that create unbelievable hardship and misery for people. It will be far easy to get goods from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, than taking the same goods next door to Ghana, or Sierra Leone. Until we have real open borders, good transport links like roads, freight trains, well paid immigration and customs officers, and improvements on airport facilities that can handle larger freight and aircraft, it will be very difficult to see how we unlock the potential of the West African sub-region economies for the benefit all. If the subregion economies were working like the European union, our region will be in a better shape. Right now there are too many bureaucratic huddles to jump.
Surely, a day will come when a gathering of ECOWAS leaders will finally yield sustainable results for the benefit of our people. Indeed, for many years they have been going and coming like travelers lost in an arid desert, like pigeons that couldn’t find their nests; like fishermen with leaking boats accomplishing nothing – yet their faces are always beaming with smiles. All of them, still proud of the barrenness that can always be found in their fruitless endeavors. (lol)