Smuggling is affecting trade in the West African sub-region, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) President Mr. Mansur Ahmed has said.
He stated this at a news conference with stakeholders at the ninth Trade Ministers Forum on West African Monetary Zone in Abuja.
The theme of the forum was “Harnessing intra-West Africa Monetary Zone (WAMZ) trade potential through value addition and diversification.”
Ahmed identified smuggling as a major challenge to West Africa’s free trade agreement, urging governments of the region to address the scourge to ensure smooth trade among member states.
Ahmed said apart from the problem of smuggling, some counties that are not members have taken advantage of the free trade movement agreement to sell their goods in the region.
According to him, such countries package their goods in the names of member countries deceitfully to enable them sell their goods without hindrance.
The MAN chief, therefore, charged customs authorities in member states to tackle smuggling.
He decried the inability of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to access finance as a major problem affecting smooth trade in the sub-region.
He said in Nigeria, there were various initiatives by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for SMEs to access funds but, was being hampered by the stringent conditions attached to the funds.
Also, the West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI) Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Ejbuna, said the forum had made some recommendations on the promotion of trade in the sub-region.
She revealed that the issue of harmonised standard products on competitive advantage in the zone was discussed.
She also said the resolutions of the meeting would be presented to the ministers for ratification.
Liberia’s Central Bank Governor, Mr. Nathaniel Patray, stressed the need for governments in West Africa to create the enabling environment for smooth trade in the sub-region.
Patray explained that African governments must remove trade barriers, ensure access to finance for businesses as well as provide good leadership for business to thrive.
He said having an enabling environment was key and important for business to flourish in any part of the world.
He urged member states to remove things disturbing businesses from moving forward in the region, noting that there was the need for governments to address problems affecting businesses by re-examining their domestic policies.
Patray further urged governments the sub-region to increase salaries and wages of officers and men manning the borders to prevent corruption.
He regretted that some officers compromise by taking bribes at the border posts, an attitude, adding that it is hampering trade.