Ghana and Nigeria must lead efforts to increase trade among West African countries to help accelerate investments in the sub-region, Mrs Irene Maama, Ghana’s Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria has said.
Speaking at the Ghana Special Day celebration, on the sidelines of the 8th Abuja International Fair, Mrs Maama said the current low level of trade among the countries would not spur the pace of growth and development that the sub-region required.
The Ghana Day celebration was to draw attention of investors to opportunities in the country and how they could tap into them.
Trade among West African countries is currently below 10 per cent, a trend Mrs Maamah said must be reversed to enable the countries to create jobs and speed up development.
Mrs Maama attributed the low level of intra-regional trade to member states’ violation of various protocols that are aimed to boost trade, poor infrastructure and extortion at the frontiers.
“Member States, who are signatories to the protocol, blatantly violate its provisions. Prohibition lists, exorbitant transit fees, extortion at the numerous check points on our roads and poor infrastructure are some of the challenges that undermine the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme,” she said.
Another challenge is the lack of a direct sea link to move goods from one port to another within the sub-region.
She said while a cargo shipment from the United States to Lagos might take about 10 days, it took 45 days for a shipment from Lagos to the Tema port in Accra, as the cargo must first be shipped to Europe and then trans-shipped to Ghana’s port.
It is in this direction, she said, that Ghana was fully committed to the “ECO-LINK” project, a sub-regional effort, to help establish a direct sea link to move goods faster being done through the initiative of NEXIM Bank of Nigeria, in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission, governments, Chambers of Commerce and Industry and other stakeholders in the sub-region.
“Ghana is committed to seeing to the realization of this project and will provide priority berthing for vessels of the project through the establishment of a West African port,” the Acting High Commissioner said.
Mrs Maama urged Ghana and Nigeria to deepen their collaboration and to explore investment opportunities in each other’s country, saying that, there were more trade avenues to enhance growth.
“Ghana will continue to participate in Fairs organized in Nigeria in order to take advantage of the huge opportunities that the Nigerian market offers, as the largest in the ECOWAS sub- region,” she said.
Mrs Maama said the economic growth and development of any nation is hinged on the development of its Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), saying, it was the fastest way to grow the economies of the two countries, increase employment and provide sustainable livelihoods in our countries.
It is therefore important to stimulate the SME sector and make it a main target of government policies and programmes, by eliminating challenges such as lack of financing, poor infrastructure and poor managerial skills.
She assured investors of a guaranteed government’s protection for their investments.
Mr Gideon Quarcoo, Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), said despite the attractions of oil revenues, government had taken a bold policy decision to focus on developing the non-oil and non-traditional export sector.
He said it is in order to give meaning to this drive that government launched the National Export Strategy to enhance non-traditional exports performance to attain a target of $5 billion dollars by 2017, to enable the sector to make maximum contribution to Gross Domestic Product and national development.
Mr Quarcoo said the participation of Ghanaian companies in the fairs over the past five years had deepened relations between public sector institutions in Ghana and Nigeria.
The President of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Dr Solomon Nanga, said Ghana had maintained a consistent number of the highest participation in the fair.
The GEPA and the Ghana High Commission in Nigeria are coordinating the participation of 50 companies in the 8th Abuja International Fair, which is being held on the theme “Promoting the Culture of Production and Innovation in SMEs to achieve Competiveness and National Development”.
The Ghana day celebration was attended by officials from other countries, including Angola, Iraq and Zambia.