There is huge potential for regional trade in West Africa – Antoine Coste

There is huge potential for regional trade in West Africa – Antoine Coste

To get a real picture of trade activities between Nigeria and other countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, a combined team of the World Bank and West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI) officials visited the country. The team led by the World Bank International Trade Consultant Africa Region, Antoine Coste, visited the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) penultimate Thursday. During the visit, Coste relayed his team’s reason for visiting the country as to identify some of the most binding constraints to trade and integration in the region. He said that the team chose to call on ANLCA as a key player in the trade/logistics chain in Nigeria positioned to give a precise view of the constraints on trade transactions at the nation’s ports and land borders.

Excerpts

What is the essence of your visit to Nigeria?

We came to Nigeria in the context of the regional work we are doing on trade facilitation for between Nigeria and the rest of the ECOWAS region because we know that there is huge potential for regional trade but most often it is hindered by a number of obstacles at different levels including levels related to the procedures and regulations that governs trade and transport. In this regard we came to talk to the different players in the transport and logistics chain. To understand what they feel are the most binding constraints and hear from them how these could possibly be eased. We very much appreciate the opportunity to talk to an association like ANLCA which, as a membership of experienced professionals, will have to deal with those constraints on a daily basis. Hopefully this kind of interaction can help us derive some policy message as to what we think could be done to improve the situation of the Nigerian economy and of other countries in the region.

How many organizations, apart from ANLCA, has your team visited so far?

This is the second mission in six countries. We’ve been in Nigeria for a week and spent a few days in Abuja where we had the opportunity to meet with a number of actors in the private and private sector.  Our stay in Abuja was very short so unfortunately we didn’t meet the Minister of Transport but was fortunate enough to spend time with the Director of Trade at the Federal Ministry of Trade which was very helpful for us to understand what the ministry was trying to do to facilitate trade and I must say that the authorities that we’ve visited in Nigeria was also the ECOWAS Commission which is a very important player for regional integration. We were also fortunate to meet with the Commissioner of Transport.

How soon do we expect the effect of your team’s visit to Nigeria?   

As you know, the challenges are huge and there are many different issues involved. I kind of really have a timeline of about three to four months to finalize our report which will be shared with our partner the West Africa Monetary Institute in Accra. Based on this, I think this will be discussed at the next summit of the trade ministers of the West African monetary zone which should be sometime in September. Hopefully this will inform the discussion on the next step to facilitate trade.