West African Trade Web Portal Launched

A free West African web Portal has been launched to facilitate intra trading between countries within the West African sub-region, particular Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

The website, www.westafricanfreetrdehub.com is an initiative of POS foundation, the facilitators of the Justice For All Programme with funding from GIZ and is aimed at using technology and effective communication to promote small-scale cross border trade on the African continent.

Speaking at the launch of the portal and 2-day workshop on promoting small-scale cross border trade, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Thomas Mbomba, highlighted the potentials of advanced technology in improving the efficiency of customs processes and easy flow of goods across borders.

“Electronic systems for filing, transferring, processing and exchanging customs information have become important tools for managing flows of information in complex trading environments. The most advanced web-based systems allow traders to submit relevant documents and pay duties online.

When implemented effectively, such systems provide long-term benefits; they save time and money while streamlining procedures, limiting direct interactions with government officials and reducing opportunities for bribery”, Mr. Mbomba noted.

He also indicated that economies with advanced web-based systems can benefit from customs electronic data exchange systems as they can help governments promote cross border trade, combat fraud and track statistical information on foreign trade transactions, stressing that “the key to success is the ability of an economy to adapt its regulatory framework to the new information technologies”.

Mr. Mbomba, however, pointed out that the implementation of these electronic systems face challenges and would require governments to enact legislation on electronic signatures and transactions.

He said West African economies face special challenges in competing globally due to the size of the domestic market, diverse trade barriers as well as transportation networks connecting with trading partners.

He, therefore, called for acceleration of trade through efforts towards increasing border cooperation agreements and reducing the number of checkpoints so that cargo for small scale border traders can move freely without being stopped for customs or other inspections until it reaches its destination.

Head of Trade Facilitation and Import Management at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Kyeremeh Yeboah, highlighted language barriers, challenges in the different customs processes and procures which need to be abide by as the some of the impediments to cross border trade.

He said Ghana is developing a national framework based on the Boosting Intra African Trade (BIAT) as a means of felicitating trade on the African continent.

Executive Director of POS Foundation, Jonthan Osei Owusu, indicated that the time has come for Africa to invest her time and efforts in building coordinated, coherent and unified technology systems which effectively communicate with the various institutions across the region.

“We must capitalize on our diversity on the continent towards sustainable growth for our people. I am of the opinion that when systems within the region are unified, it would ease the stress and facilitate a smooth transaction of business and trade at the borders, after all, we are all one people divided by colonial borders and perhaps language.

BY Gibril Abdul Razak