Gambia’s Trade Minister Fears Region Could Be A Dumping Ground Without Industrialization
The Gambian Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Bai Lamin Jobe, fears that countries in the sub-region could become dumping grounds should they fail to adhere to the industrialization policy of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Minister addressed the gathering that was commemorating ECOWAS Day in The Gambia’s national stadium in Bakau on Saturday. Citizens from every member state of ECOWAS attended the event and included the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the only non-ECOWAS member country in West Africa. The regional bloc marked the 44th year since its formation on May 28, 1975.
The main goal of ECOWAS is to ensure regional integration for better flow of goods and people to boost the economies of its member states. However, several businesspeople in the sub-region have criticized the body as they continue to face a tough time in connecting their businesses to neighbouring countries.
The Trade Minister admitted that there can be no free trade zone or customs union without effective movement of people and goods. But according to him, The Gambia has started seeing some improvements in this regard.
“Our integration effort is gradually improving the volume of trade between The Gambia and ECOWAS member countries. The Gambia, for the last few years, has seen an increase in trade with ECOWAS member states. I therefore believe that the efforts to address the trade and investment issues in the region will be enhanced, especially with the determination of our leaders to produce the ECO common currency.”
However, in terms of industrialization, the minister is dissatisfied with the pace of developments towards that end. He challenged member states to move quickly in that direction especially with the coming of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which many countries have signed and ratified.
“If we do not move towards industrialization, Africa will become a dumping ground because other countries outside Africa, or outside ECOWAS for that matter, will produce and dump it into our countries. We must be very serious in industrialization and it must start as soon as possible with medium, micro-medium and small-scale enterprises. There’s no developed country which has not gone through this stage. It’s high time we follow suit and industrialize.”
Jobe says The Gambia is committed to implementing the ECOWAS protocols, conventions and programmes and assures the country’s continuity in harmonizing national laws and programmes with the regional ones.
“In that regard, The Gambia has signed and ratified most of ECOWAS protocols and conventions. Of the 53 ECOWAS conventions and protocols signed; The Gambia has ratified 54 of such protocols.”
Minister Jobe assured that his ministry will work towards ratifying the remaining protocols the country has signed up to. According to him, the country is currently implementing the ECOWAS Common External Traffic (CET) which aims to support the development of regional value chain, promote industrialization and structural transformation of the regional economies.
The ECOWAS ambassador to The Gambia, Madam Vaba Gayflo said the day’s significance will allow them to assess the achievements and challenges of the bloc in order to provide solutions for development. From democracy’s point of view, she hailed the member states for conducting series of elections under free and fair conditions recently.
Gayflo recalled that ECOWAS was set up to build the common market for its member states through the creation of free flow of people and goods. According to her, this will discourage young citizens from risking their lives at sea in search of greener pastures in Europe.