In the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), transport and livestock economic operators endeavour to facilitate regional integration. Reporting at the Abidjan-Treichville STC Station, where the buses are stamped with the mention « free movement »
Station of the Ghanaian transport company STC in Abidjan-Treichville: on the windscreens of the buses, a sticker attracts the attention of travelers or observers. It is mentioned « free movement » with the Ivorian flag and the symbol of ECOWAS, the sub-regional political and economic institution founded in 1975. Bags of rice, toilet paper, oil, drinks made in Côte d’Ivoire are included in the luggage travellers, a symbol of economic integration.
Free movement of goods and people, a reality
The STC Company, one of the first companies in the sub region to have integrated the « regional mechanism for the monitoring of free movement », receives Ivorian customs’ officers, police, gendarmerie, Waters and Forests workers. On the quay, they make the necessary checks and seal the buses’ trunks before departure to Accra (Ghana) or Cotonou (Benin), the destination.
According to Sawado goIssaka, chair of the board of directors of Sococib in Abidjan and of the African Confederation of livestock and meat of West Africa, « the Abidjan and San Pedro Ports operate thanks to the cotton balls of Burkina Faso and Mali… and things are improving. Before, between the Burkina Faso-Côte d’Ivoire border, 30 km long, the carriers used to spendCFA 120,000, but due to the difficulties and the necessary measures taken, expenses are now limited to CFA 30,000. »
For the Chair of Sococib, this is a real improvement in trade: « Now the trailers go fast, the traffic is fluid and trade is going well »
« The major problem: road infrastructure»
Koné Vafi, Chairperson of the Confederation of Road Drivers of West Africa (CSCRAO) recalled that the major problem to connect peoples remains the road infrastructure.
« The carrier is the integrating element and our ambition is to turn the 15 countries of ECOWASinto one country. Senegalese trucks did not come here before, it is the case today. A least 50 Senegalese trucks come to Cote d’Ivoire per month to load yam at the Bouaké wholesale market. In 2009, I saw Ivorian women selling coconuts and buy dried fish in Gambia … » According to him, the harassment was current ground before:« the carriers used to pay CFA 600,000 of false expenses to the Malian border and CFA 150,000 for an empty truck; The Senegalese did not allow the Malians to load in Senegal; The Ghana-Togo border used to close at 6 pm … »
Similarly, Diallo Mamadou, representing the Guinean economic operators to Côte d’Ivoire, refers to the progress to be made between his country and Abidjan: « Between Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, the road has never been good … But for a while, Côte d’Ivoire has been working towards the Guinean border, and Guinea is also working towards the Lola forest. And our organizations encourage the two governments to build … »
Institutional support, “juxtaposed control”
According to Louis Philippe Goly, Director of Community Policies for Trade, Free Movement and Right of Residence at the Ivorian Ministry of African Integration and Outside Ivoirians, the major project must be « the regional highway » Which is built on the main corridors.
« The ECOWAS Commission supports this initiative by mobilizing resources. There is the installation of juxtaposed control posts to facilitate control operations. He also believes that « perfect integration is an ideal, but that we can already have a sufficient level of integration », for example, through the promotion of the « community identity card. »
It also recalls that as part of regional integration, licenses have already been issued to Ivorian companies to sell in other countries without paying customs duties. « There are many benefits from regional integration. As a proof, Côte d’Ivoire is the leading supplier of industrial products in the ECOWAS member countriesmainly due to tax exemption. »
Obstacles to integration, a political will
While the development of road infrastructure and freight trade illustrates regional integration, many people still point out the lack of political will.
As Louis Philippe Goly points out, the players in liberal occupations still face hurdles to set up their businesses in ECOWAS member countries. For example, the common markets are slow to formalize: “The single currency, 20 years later, is still not a reality.” He also deplored the timid implementation of agreements: “the Protocol on the free movement of persons and goods dates from 1979 in ECOWAS … unfortunately, 37 years after the adoption of this protocol dedicated to create an ECOWAS of the peoples, it has been timidlyimplemented.”
And Sawado goIssaka de la Sococib concluded that: “Which protocol has been signed and which, 37 years later has still not yet been implemented? – For me, it is undoubtedly a lack of political will.”