|Mr Drammeh, new FEWACCI President|
The newly elected president of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry is poised to undertake an initiative that will remove the various barriers placed in the way of regional trade and development in West Africa.
The Gambia’s Bai Matarr Drammeh, who was recently elected as president of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), has said his topmost priority is to promote the free flow of goods as well as movement of people, which is in line with the ECOWAS Commission’s vision of enhancing private sector growth in the region.
“My number one priority which I am embarking on right now is to push for the realization of a sea link project,” said Mr Drammeh, who was elected at the 2nd Annual General Meeting of FEWACCI, held in Cotonou, Benin, in September this year.
With the implementation of the sea link project, there will be container carrying vessels, as well as those carrying passengers, with agricultural produce and manufactured goods from one country to another within the sub-region.
The perennial problem traders face when moving goods from one country to another within the ECOWAS region using the land borders is expected to be minimised to its barest form as soon as the sea link project is fully implemented.
“I want to see that the sea link project of the federation is fully implemented as this will boost trade within the sub-region as well as help eradicate the hassles that are meted on the traders when crossing land borders of the ECOWAS countries,” said Mr Drammeh, who is also the president of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).
“This would enable us to grow economically and become competitive globally, he said. “We want to engage in regional cooperation and integration in order to be globally competitive. This is what the federation wants to achieve and this is what I want to push forward.”
He pointed out that the estimated cost of the sea link project is US$60m. Already, he said, Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) had shown interest in financing it and there was some very strong companies that came to Cotonou at the annual general meeting and want to be shareholders of the project.
“So already there are institutions that are willing to provide the financing for the project, which is an indication of its success at the beginning,” he said.
A sea-link project is a major step in deepening trade within ECOWAS sub-region and a significant step in enhancing the current trade flows of the ECOWAS member states, promote increased trade flows as well as create jobs and other opportunities for the people, considering the huge capital flight from the region through the absence of a sea trade infrastructure.
Recent studies by the United States Agency for Industrial Development (USAID) showed that entrepreneurs in the region have been paying more than 5 to 10 folds the fair trade cost for moving goods within the region because there exist several challenges in the form of non-tariff barriers and the absence of sea and rail way transport system.
Promote comparative advantage
The FEWACCI president said that when the sea link is fully operational each country can develop on its comparative advantage.
He said: “For instance, if Liberia is the country that has most of the rubber raw material in West Africa, then why can’t we build a factory in Liberia to process rubber there and other countries that have rubber in the sub-region can be shipping their rubber to Liberia because they had the comparative advantage. In this way, Liberia can concentrate more on rubber production and processing and leave other products to other countries that have the comparative advantage.
“Similarly, if Ghana have advantage in cocoa production why can’t we build a factory there so that other countries with lesser amount of cocoa can sell their cocoa to Ghana for it to be processed into finished products such as powder, chocolate, and whatever and then sell to the West or to any global market.
“Again, the Gambia does not grow yams in large quantity, so with the sea link, Gambia can also ship its yams to another country with the comparative advantage for it to be processed there and other countries can also ship their groundnut to The Gambia since Gambia produces groundnut in large quantity. This way whenever our borders are closed, we can use the sea link to export and import without being hindered by the border closure.”
According to Mr Drammeh, the Federation will analyze the comparative economic advantages that each country has and pool up resources to help each to develop according to its capacity not as an end in itself, but for the good of all the countries. The Federation will help to diversify the production of goods and services of countries and help them to integrate with other countries to create a large market for each country. This will facilitate regional infrastructural development.
Initiative of FEWACCI
Sea link is the initiative of FEWACCI as ECOBANK was. Explains Mr Drammeh: “The concept of having a regional bank was initiated by FEWACCI. This one was an idea that FEWACCI members had and had discussed it over and over. But as that discussion was going on, ECOWAS was also discussing having a similar bank in the sub-region; so when ECOWAS realised that we (FEWACCI) were discussing it they said we should leave it to them to move with it. That is how it became theirs and this is what gave birth to ECOBANK, which is now a regional bank.”