Speaker calls for reduction in cost of in-tra West Africa trade

Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, the Speaker of Parliament has suggested to the ECOWAS Parliament to come out with mechanisms to reduce the high cost of transporting goods within the sub-region.

He identified the private sector as a formidable source of funding infrastructural development to boost intra-regional trade, which may also go for the development of the transport sector in the sub-region.

In a keynote address read for him by the Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, the First Deputy Speaker, at the opening of the Fourth Delocalised Meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament in Accra, the Speaker regretted the low level of intra-regional trade in the sub-region, pointing out that it costs about three times to ship goods within the ECOWAS Region, than other destinations.

The five-day meeting, under the theme "Public-Private Partnership: An Alternative Source of Funding for Community Programmes and Projects”, attracted legislators from the ECOWAS Parliament; to share ideas from member nation and challenges on infrastructural financing.

Prof Oquaye referred to the aspirations Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the ideals of a prosperous, integrated continent, and a global partner to the benefit of all, which however has been challenged by a huge infrastructure gap.

Most countries in West Africa are not able to raise sufficient financing for development, and have also resorted to debt financing, resulting in fiscal deficits.

Furthermore, most countries in the sub region have not been able to transform their environments to create the needed jobs for the teeming unemployed youth

The Speaker pointed out that there is a large pool of resources within the private sector; which could be used to finance infrastructure, often left to the public sector.

Some of such private entities, are able to put up huge edifices, without consideration to the development of roads or sanitation issues.

He urged the MPs to consider legislation such as Ghana’s Public Private Policy; and the Infrastructure Development Bill passed in 2014 and come out with workable proposal for infrastructure development funding in their respective countries.

Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, reiterated the belief of the Government of Ghana that the prosperity of the country is hinged on creating the necessary enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.

This, she said would also help the nation to wean itself off the support of development partners and realise the vision of "Ghana Beyond Aid" and an Africa Beyond Aid.

The Minister said the current vision of the Government to encourage more Public-Private Partnerships as a credible and alternative source of funding for the socio-economic development of the country was apt.

The Foreign Affairs Minister used the meeting to appeal for support to have Ghana host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), here in Accra.

“By offering to host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Ghana is reinforcing her commitment to the African Integration Agenda. I trust that we can count on your full support and the support of your countries for the success of our bid,” Ms Botchwey said.

Mr Moustapha Cisse, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, who described Ghana as “temple of democracy and freedoms” observed that there is a growing interest to diversify the financing of infrastructural development.

He said this imposes the responsibility on legislators to understand the mechanisms of financing of investment, in the face of their primary role as legislators for best approaches of financing, supported by the constitution.

“That is why we have the duty to understand and appreciate the nature of the sources of budget financing and difficulties of internal fund mobilisation,” the ECOWAS Parliament Speaker said.

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