Border Information Centres aim to reduce delays, costs at borders

Friday, August 12 2011

Joe Lamport
For every minute a truck is delayed crossing a border – perhaps for every second – an importer or an exporter has a story about how business could be booming if those delays were eliminated or significantly reduced.

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“If there were fewer delays, we could immediately open a new facility in Accra – creating hundreds of jobs – to produce the fruit juice that people want in Cotonou and Lagos,” a fruit juice manufacturer in Ghana told the USAID Trade Hub Business Environment in an interview. Instead, the expansion is languishing.
Another company manager said instead of five truck trips a month from Lagos to Accra, his company could do 25 if delays were reduced significantly. Yet other companies – one that manufactures paint, another that makes foam beds – said it could open up new facilities in the region if moving raw materials were easier.
The impacts could transform West Africa’s economy.
“If the delays were reduced, there is no doubt that business would expand,” said Lillian Osei, who manages logistics for West African Market Links group in Ghana.
In the future, perhaps there will be fewer stories like these to tell.
Borderless information centre ribbon cutting
Public and private sector stakeholders launched West Africa's first Border Information Centres at the Ghana-Togo border in August.
On Aug. 4, despite rain and distance, public and private sector stakeholders took a significant step toward realizing the region’s economic potential: Border Information Centers were officially launched at the Ghana-Togo border, one on each side, to reduce the time it takes to cross the border and the costs associated with what can only be described as an ordeal, stakeholders said. 
The centers were born of the USAID Trade Hub’s comprehensive studies of transport costs and obstacles to regional trade and transport.

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The new centers are hosted by the Ghana Shippers’ Authority in Aflao, Ghana, and by the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Organization (ALCO) in Kodjoviakope, Togo (map to the new centers). They feature brochures on customs and border crossing procedures, internet access to up-to-date information on protocols and procedures in nine West African countries, hotlines for people to call to get help when problems arise (18179 in Ghana and +228 940 43 59 in Togo) and technical experts on crossing borders like Evans Klutse, a retired senior Ghana customs service director (meet Evans Klutse!). The centers are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In a message to the official launch ceremony, Alfred Braimah of the ECOWAS Private Sector directorate, described the initiative as historic and praised Togo and Ghana for anchoring the Information Centres.
Borderless Information icon“This is clearly a demonstration of commitment to the vision and ideals of the ECOWAS founding fathers and support for the ETLS,” Braimah said.
Senior officials from the American embassies in both countries participated in the launch as well as Togo’s Minister of Commerce, Seleagodji Ahoumey-Zunu, Togo's Minister of Security Gnama Latta, and Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Transport, Dzifa Ativvor, and the Chief Director of Ghana's Ministry of Trade and Industry, Nii Ansah-Adjaye. They expressed strong support for the initiative.
Major General Carl Modey, Commissioner of Customs, Ghana, said the launch of the BIC was timely and pledged the commitment of security agencies to ease cross-border transport and trade, adding that the procedural delays, harassment and payment without receipt would be a thing of the past.
“Clearly, a key issue is information flow,” said Dr. Sola Afolabi, director of the USAID Trade Hub’s Business Environment component. “The new centers put the information where it is arguably needed the most – at the border. With the high-level support of the government services, ECOWAS, the Borderless Alliance (LINK) and the expert assistance of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority and ALCO, we are confident these centers are going to reduce time lost at the border.”

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