Economic operators, as well as relevant government ministries and agencies responsible for trade in the West African Nation of Niger, are calling on Ghana to come to their aid and rescue them from over taxation, intimidation, harassment and unfair treatment, regarding import and export trade in the hands of port operators in neighboring francophone countries like, Benin, Togo and Abidjan.
Niger and the two other neighbours – Mali and Burkina Faso – are the three main land locked countries (LLC) in the West Africa sub-region, who are traditionally aligned in using the seaports of fellow Francophone countries in Dakar, Guinea, Abidjan, Lome and Cotonou to participate in international trade.
However, due to inefficiencies, high cost of operations, poor transportation networks, delays and political instability in these countries, economic operators in the LLCs have realised the need to diversify their use of seaports in the sub-region to impact positively in the lives of their citizenry.
As a result of this new trend, Burkina Faso, for instance, has been a major trade partner with the two sea ports of Ghana in the last few years, with four out of its top five importers using Ghana’s sea port and growing traffic of 6,274,004mt, representing 57% of total transit traffic on the Ghanaian corridor.
It appears the opportunities that abound on the Ghanaian corridor and its sea ports is fast receiving acknowledgment throughout the Sahelian Region, as economic operators and governmental institutions request Ghana to avail itself to capture the Nigerian transit market.
During a Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) initiated a Trade Mission to Niamey, capital of Niger, a team of delegates, led by the Board Chairman of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Mr. Peter Mac Manu, and supported by its Director General, Mr. Paul Asare Ansah, assured the government and economic operators of Niger that Ghana has prepared itself to offer every assistance needed to allow commercially viable and cost effective importation and exportation by the people of Niger through Ghana’s ports and corridors.
The delegation also included a Deputy Commissioner of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Alhaji Abubakar Seidu, representatives of Ghana Shippers Authority, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Chamber of Commerce, directors of Port Terminals and management of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority. Others are, Mrs. Esther Gyebi-Donkor, General Manager of Marketing Corporate Affairs, and David Songotu, GPHA’s representative to the Sahelian countries.
They praised the already-existing good relations between Niger and Ghana, which is being sustained by the presidents of the two nations – H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou and H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo – and pledged to improve on it.
Niger Minister of Commerce
The Minister for Trade and Private Sector Promotion of Niger, Mr. Alma Uomarou, told the delegation that currently, there is a law in Benin that has introduced a new throat-cutting tax on the economic operators of Niger, for which he has personally cautioned the Beninois government of the consequences on trade relations between Niger and Benin. He, therefore, called on Ghana to position its self to capitalise on the current situation and attract the economic operators of Niger to the Ghanaian corridors.
“I am currently on my way to Benin to represent my government and let them know our disapproval of the newly-introduced tax, and also how our economic operators are unhappy with the way they are treated at the Cotonou Port and on the corridors,” the Niger Minister of Commerce revealed to the Ghanaian Trade Delegation.
Niger Minister of Industry
The Minister of Industry of the Republic of Niger, Mr. Seydou Sadou, also commended the Ghanaian Trade Mission delegation, and reiterated the visit was timely, because opportunities now exist for Ghana to take advantage and advance its lead in the International Trade Market within the Sub-Region.
He affirmed that from all indications and testimonies from their economic operators, who have and are still using the Ghanaian corridor, Ghana is the best option for the Nigerian international trade.
He assured the Ghanaian delegation of his support and collaboration from the government of Niger. “I have very good relations with my colleague Minister of Commerce, we will ensure to put the necessary measures in place for Ghana to benefit from our trade,” the Niger Minister of Industry assured.
However, a few bottlenecks were raised by the Niger economic operators and government agencies like Customs, which included a request by the Commissioner General of Customs Division of Niger, Amadou Halilou, that Ghana’s Customs Division should make information on goods that leave Ghana for Niger available to them for effective monitoring. They also charged the Ghanaian Customs Division to address all challenges surrounding certificates of origin on merchandise that come from Ghana.
The economic operators also requested the Trade Mission Delegation to assist in addressing a major concern regarding a private terminal operator, Bolore Transport and Logistics, which has sited its terminal on the Ghanaian end of the Niger Border, which is making business along the Ghanaian corridor more expensive.
They also requested Ghana’s ports to bridge the language barrier between the two countries by increasing information flow in the French Language.
Ghana’s two ports have had long standing trade relations with the land-locked nation of Niger. The Port of Takoradi began its transit trading with Niger in the year 2002, while the Port of Tema had begun since 1997. The trade volumes were quite significant until the year 2009, when Ghana began implementing the axle load policy that allowed a six-axle load truck to carry not more than 60,000 tonnes of cargo on its corridors.
Currently, transit cargo to the Republic of Niger was as low as 20,000 tonnes in 2017, as against a record figure of about 400,000 tonnes in 2008, before the implementation of the ECOWAS axle load policy in 2009.
The Ghanaian and Nigerian trade community are optimistic that the times for a positive turning point have come, following the Ghana Ports and Harbours-initiated Trade Mission to Niamey, capital of Niger, and the subsequent engagement of the trade and business community.