Removing trade barriers in West Africa
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT BORDERLESS?
The Borderless Alliance is an advocacy group that aims to remove barriers of trade and ransport in West Africa and promote the free movement of goods, people and finance in the sub-region. Its membership includes port authorities, freight forwarders, transport companies, manufacturers, producers, traders and other value chain players, all united in their desire to create a better business environment in the region.
HOW LONG HAVE BORDERLESS BEEN IN EXISTENCE?
Borderless was started as a campaign by the West Africa Trade Hub, a USAID regional program, in March 2010, in order to address the high cost of logistics and trade in West Africa, especially to landlocked countries.
Later on, it was institutionalized and formally launched as an independent entity in May 2012, with the support of USAID/West Africa Trade Hub at the first Borderless Alliance conference in Abidjan, in May 2012. Since then, it has been working with USAID, ECOWAS, UEMOA, World Bank, uniformed authorities, local governments and private sector representatives to bring change where it is needed and to help solve the numerous problems that lead to high cost of trade and transport in West Africa. Conferences, workshops, high-level meetings, training sessions and many other projects were undertaken since the launch.
WHAT ARE THE PROCEDURES ONE HAS TO GO THROUGH IN ORDER TO ENGAGE IN THE SERVICES OF BORDERLESS?
There are no requirements to join the Borderless Alliance, except to be registered and operating in West Africa and to be ready to work in compliance with various regulations across the region. In exchange for that membership, BA offers networking opportunities, advocacy solutions, technical assistance and a range of benefits that continue to be added on a regular basis.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF BORDERLESS?
HOW HAS BORDERLESS AIDED IN THE REMOVAL OF TRADE BARRIERS IN WEST AFRICA?
By holding technical workshops and training sessions with the uniformed authorities and by working with the various stakeholders involved in trade and transport, many bottlenecks across the regional corridors have been eliminated, as can be illustrated from the quarterly road governance reports. In addition to that, our new border information centers are reducing the border crossing time and cost for regional trade, as well as providing traders and operators with useful trade information to help them clear their goods faster.
HOW MANY COUNTRIES DO YOU OPERATE IN?
Currently, Borderless has eight national committees in Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Nigeria, Benin, Niger, Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso. We will be extending our presence to Mali soon and will try to have a permanent presence in all ECOWAS countries.
HOW COLLABORATIVE AND FRIENDLY IS BORDERLESS TO SHIPPERS?
BA provides trade brochures and pamphlets at the border information centers, in addition to technical assistance to distressed operators at the border crossings, especially those who are in possession of legal documents for cargo and driver and should not be subject to harassment. Toll numbers are also provided so that the BIC advisors and the shipper council complaint units across the region are ready to offer assistance when needed.
BA is action-driven, results oriented and private sector – based; it is intent on leaving a long lasting impact in the business environment in the region, not just to become another talk shop. We are working on improving the effectiveness of ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), removing checkpoints, reducing border crossing time, harmonizing document requirements in the region and similar activities. It is an organization driven by private sector, for the private sector. It is about action, dialogue and public-private partnership. It is about building a better future for our new generations.
Source: Panafrican magazine/ edition# 14 page# 5