After hearing from a top UEMOA official that Togo was not implementing UEMOA’s rules on checkpoints, Togo’s Minister of Security and Civil Protection took a swift and decisive action: he ordered the removal of checkpoints operated by police and gendarmes on the country’s primary highway. And the decision appears to have stuck.
There are fewer scenes like this after Togo officials eliminated numerous checkpoints.
“There used to be more than 40 fixed checkpoints – and trucks were being stopped about a dozen times for inspections – along Togo’s national highway, connecting Lome to Ouagadougou,” said Niels Rasmussen, director of transport at the USAID West Africa Trade Hub. “Now there are none. Customs checkpoints remain but no matter how you look at it, this is a significant change and the minister deserves praise for making it happen.”
The improvement demonstrates that improving road governance - and realizing the vision of a borderless West Africa - are achievable goals. Borderless stakeholders will convene in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, May 15-16, to discuss progress and how to achieve similar breakthroughs across the region.
A USAID Trade Hub verification trip along the highway confirmed in February that the checkpoints in Togo are indeed gone.
“Other countries have made similar pledges in the past, but the checkpoints have always returned,” said Lilian Osei, manager of a trucking company in Ghana and a member of the Borderless Alliance’s executive committee. “The news from Togo seems different this time. It would be hugely important if other countries follow Togo’s lead.
“Still, they are only doing what they pledged to do as signatories to the ECOWAS treaty,” she added, pointing to regional agreements to limit the number of checkpoints on trade corridors.
Some have suggested that regional bodies should sanction countries for not implementing the regional rules. Despite hints from its last president that it was prepared to do so, neither ECOWAS nor UEMOA has taken such action.
“The issue here is not the rules, which clearly exist and have been agreed upon, but the capacity or the will to actually enforce the rules,” said Moono Mupotola, the director of regional integration at the African Development Bank (see related story
). “That is why advocacy is such an important part of the equation.”
The Borderless Alliance will hold its first annual conference in Abidjan to build consensus and make change happen through evidence-based advocacy. The Cote d’Ivoire Ministry of Transport is co-sponsoring the event.
“The Borderless Conference will bring hundreds of stakeholders together to network, share ideas and do business,” said Ziad Hamoui of Tarzan Enterprise in Ghana and a member of the Alliance’s executive committee. “Collaboration is the key to reducing the costs of doing business and the conference will facilitate links among and between stakeholders.”