At the request of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Trade Hub and the Food Across Borders (ProFAB) program are developing a framework for a scorecard for member states to evaluate their own progress in implementing the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
From July 17-19, a proposal writing team—consisting of the Hub’s Chief of Party Ms. Carol Adoum and Trade Facilitation Specialist Mr. Chongo Mukupa, expert consultants Mr. Daniel Plunkett, and Dr. Abdoulaye Fall— travelled to Abuja, Nigeria to discuss the scorecard approach and methodology with various ECOWAS directorates, where they also met with the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on their first member country-specific introductory meeting.
Among other topics, the discussions identified areas for improvement in ETLS implementation, notably in National Approval Committees, whose mandate is limited to formally registered companies under ETLS, and not to oversight of the overall ETLS program.
Lack of a responsible oversight authority to manage and oversee ETLS implementation—including free movement of goods, people and capital—has weakened implementation of many aspects of ETLS and stranded it without recourse to higher authorities. Without a responsible authority, items like certificates of origin for staple food crops continue to be demanded at borders, “and continue to afford border organizations the opportunity for bribes and unnecessary documentation,” Ms. Adoum said.
The scorecard will help member states prioritize areas of implementation and compare their progress to that of other countries in the region. In collaboration with ECOWAS, the team has prepared a schedule of visits to learn specific ETLS implementation oversight practices and data collection programs used in six countries as well as by regional organizations like the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS). These meetings will introduce the concept of a scorecard to relevant officials.
The team will also prepare a proposal for ECOWAS Director of Customs to present to member states, along with a proposed methodology, in a future member states’ council of ministers meeting.