It appears that attempts to stamp out red tapes and cut down illegal checkpoints on the country’s trade corridors are yielding less results than previously reported.
A recent fact-finding and advocacy trip on the Tema-Paga corridor by private and public sector stakeholders in the trade facilitation business showed that police checkpoints on the 766 kilometres road have risen from 42 in 2015 to 61 in the first week of November, this year.
Organised under the theme “Promoting Ghana as a regional gateway; keeping goods and people moving”, the week-long event was a collaboration effort between the Borderless Alliance and West Africa Food Markets Program (WAFM) with support from USAID ADVANCE Project, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, the USAID West Africa Trade and Investments Hub, and the and Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA).
The stakeholders interacted with cross-border women traders in the Techiman market and other economic operators at the major transport and trade hubs along the corridor including police and custom officers.
Addressing stakeholders at the Techiman and Paga border, the Policy Facility Manager of WAFM , Mr Noel Kossonou explained that staple food production and trades within the Ghana-Burkina Faso and Nigeria-Niger corridors have been a major concern to many stakeholders.
He said the WAFM Programme was a five-year initiative that seeks to address food insecurity and enhance staple food trade along the two major trade corridors.
He said trade was made possible by the programme’s two-prong solutions – the funding wing under the Challenge Fund and Policy Facility wing, which works with non-state actors, private sector associations and key policy influencers to support improvements in the policy and regulatory environment for stable food trade.
Mr Kossonou said 122,698 smallholder farmers have since received support services under the grantees.
The WAFM programme targets millet, cassava, sorghum and maize and will run between 2014 and 2019.
Funded by the UKaid and the Department of International Development (DFID), the WAFM Programme has since achieved some enviable results, including facilitating the trade of 4,731 tons of staple foods across the two borders.
The Caravan team observed that beyond delaying the movement of goods, mostly transit trade meant for Ghana’s landlocked neighbours, the checkpoints are conduits for bribe-taking by security officers, who demand and take an average of GH¢10 to GH¢100 at every checkpoint.
Mr Bright Senam Gowonu, a Trade Facilitation Specialist at Borderless Alliance told GraphicOnline that the team found that Burkinabe truck drivers hauling clinker from the Takoradi Port to that country pay the most bribes at the various police checkpoints.
Unlike their counterparts, he said the clinker haulers, who are the new economic operators on the Ghanaian corridor, are mostly made to pay between GH¢50 and GH¢100 per police checkpoint, making them “an easy target for extortion and harassment”.
The figures were obtained from the team’s interactions with the relevant stakeholders on the corridor and the Paga border, he said. As an advocacy platform, the Caravan is one of many other initiatives by the various stakeholders to help throw more light on the various impediments to trade on that corridor.
Distribution of checkpoints
Of the 61 checkpoints on the road, Mr Gowonu said 31 were found to be fixed while 30 were mobile. Seven are within the Accra-Kumasi Highway, nine on the Kumasi-Techiman Highway with 46 being on the Techima-Paga corridor, he added.
“Techiman-Kintampo section of the corridor continues to be an active zone for illicit payments and police checkpoints,” portions of a brief highlighting key findings of the trip also said. It is gratifying, however, to note that Ghana Customs checkpoints stand at two on the corridor in line with the government directive.
Impact on staple food productions and trade
The findings of the Caravan are an affront on recent claims that the country is removing checkpoints along its corridor as part of a wider commitment to reducing the impediments to internal and external trade.
In addition to discouraging transit traders from using the country’s twin ports for transhipment, the upsurge in checkpoints and their attendant facilitation of illicit payments impact negatively on staple food trade between Ghana and its neighbours.
Some women traders at Techiman also complained to the Caravan team of lack of point of contact or hotlines to reach in moments of distress while in Burkina Faso.
This, they said impacted negatively on the transportation of their goods from Ghana and through Burkinabe customs and security officials in Burkina Faso’s territory.
They also made urgent request to the Ghana Highway Authority to install axle weigh stations at the points of loading within the Techiman market. These weigh stations will help determine the weight of their goods before they are set on the road to ensure that the truckloads are within the required axle load limit. That should help forestall delays and additional payments.