AfDB tinkers economic highway zones for Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, others
To boost trade, investments, growth and overall development, stakeholders have called for the creation of exclusive economic zones/hubs along the Abidjan–Lagos Highway Corridor which supports about 75 per cent of the trade activities of the sub-region.
This was one of the outcomes of a regional workshop held in Abidjan to validate the outcomes of a study commissioned by the African Development Bank on the Abidjan–Lagos Highway Corridor. The study, an assessment of the trade facilitation gaps and needs on the Corridor was carried out by a Barcelona-based firm, the Advanced Logistics Group.
The meeting also recommended the harmonisation and simplification of customs procedures, including the simplification and fast-tracking of the issuance of certificates of origin. In this regard, this should also involve the harmonization of trade regimes (the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the Mano River Union) within the region; and the consolidation and streamlining of the processes for approval of Authorised Economic Operator and the Corridor Certified operators, in order not to duplicate efforts and processes.
The participants called for the urgent establishment of a Corridor Management to facilitate a coordinated process of implementing corridor programmes.
The Abidjan–Lagos Highway Corridor, covering 1,028 kilometres, spans across five countries – Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria – and traverses the economic capitals of these five coastal countries, starting from Abidjan and ending in Lagos, while equally straddling eight border crossings.
Unfortunately, deficiencies, particularly the cumbersome border management and customs operations, weakens its impact and contribution to the economic growth of the sub-region.
It is a major flagship project under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) and also fully endorsed by ECOWAS, a key partner in the initiative.
The validation workshop provided the opportunity for a critical review and assessment of the study report. The objective was to identify the critical problem areas and solutions recommended to the specific problems. In this regard, an overriding concern of the study was to move away from the approach of “one-size-fits-all” kinds of solutions, to specific problems at the respective borders.
A key task was to identify the quick wins or low-hanging fruits that can quickly be harvested. This is to enable AfDB tailor interventions to directly respond to these specific challenges.
The Abidjan–Lagos Corridor fits well into the High 5s strategy of the Bank with a view to harnessing the enormous potentials for growth and development, including for infrastructure, production and the transport logistics value chains.
“For the Bank, however, the study has helped to achieve an immediate objective: identifying the specific trade facilitation gaps and needs as well as the solutions proffered. But, more importantly, it will further help the design of interventions to meet specific targets, for maximum impact, both at specific border posts and generally, along the broad expanse of the transport corridor,” said Janvier Litse, Director General of the AfDB’s West Africa Hub.
Litse however called for better co-ordination among development partners engaged in the corridor in order to avoid duplication of efforts.
Participants at the workshop were drawn from a wide range of stakeholders: government representatives from the five participating member countries (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo), the ECOWAS Commission, the Abidjan–Lagos Highway Corridor Organisation, development partners, civil society and the private sector.