Stakeholders Sight Transit Complexities

By Awa B. Bah

As part of the implementation of the Inter-State Road Transit ISRT between Ecowas member states, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, MOTIE, in collaboration with the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry GCCI, on Thursday 24th August 2017 organized a transit test convoy from the Gambia’s Port complex in Banjul, to Giboro. The objective of the transit test convoy is to inform the public on the processes of how the Inter-State Road Transit works.

Government launched the Ecowas Inter-State Road Transit ISRT since 2008 and formally designated the GCCI as the national guarantor responsible for the implementation of the scheme. The purpose of the scheme is to safeguard goods from their point of loading to their point of destination ensuring that there is free harassment and no delay or deviation into another territory. Mr. Essa Jaw Business Development and Trade Facilitation at the Gambia Ports Authority, said the scheme is a comprehensive and integrated approach, designed to reduce the complexities and cost of trade transaction processes, facilitating the movements of good to other states within the sub-region.

Mr. Jaw said ISRT aims to ensure that transit activities can take place in an efficient, transparent and predictable manner, based on internationally agreed standards and best practices. ISRT he said is becoming increasingly relevant in enhancing the Gambia’s competitiveness in trade within the West African sub-region as a result of the schemes sufficient and cost-effective nature. 

Sarata Conateh Business Development Director at GCCI said the ISRT involves following a vehicle on transit from the documentation at the ports, to the border. The start of the scheme she said came with two fundamental objectives and that is to see a boost and increase in transit trade and to ensure that they minimize harassments, delay, bribery and other stumbling blocks along the way, before the border. The challenge she said are the stops of the transit vehicles on their way to the border. The ISRT she said is a way to measure and get testimonials from the parties involved particularly drivers or shippers of goods, on their experiences and further verify the information for validation.

She said they have designated three check points from the ports to the borders, just as how it has been stipulated in the Ecowas protocol. The ISRT she said increases value for the ports as it is the first point of entry. She said that there are lots of stakeholders that are not fully aware of its benefits and how it is operationalized and given support to ensure it sustainability for Gambia’s re export trade. Baturuh Camara-Ceesay, Assistant Director of Trade at the Ministry said the test was important and relevant for the country as it shows how the processes on the Ecowas protocol is being implemented at field level. The processes she said should be fair and correct; that they are sensitive because it is revenue and goods that are at stake. She said they want to be compliant with the implementation of the ISRT scheme.

Alhagie K. Mbye, Seaport Operations Manager at the GRA, said ISRT is a customs procedure under the Ecowas protocol and it governs the movement of goods in and out of a country. He said ISRT starts from the office where all goods are manifested for transit and given approval to the verification of documents and the sealing of the vehicle and the attachment of an Ecowas plate for identification. ‘‘The procedures which were challenging before, are now smooth and today the volume of transit has greatly increased,’’ he said

The escorted truck drivers said they have faced lots of challenges from the authorities before, on the way to their various destinations. He said most often, they are delayed, harassed and forced to give bribes as a result of the process of documentation and the mounting of unnecessary checkpoints on the way; that there are high hopes these challenges will be addressed since the stakeholders are monitoring the processes involved.