The Sixth Meeting of the Ministers of Finance of ECOWAS Member States on the Community Levy and the Consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union, has been held in Accra.
The meeting was preceded by a summit of the Directors-General of Customs from 13 of the 15 Member States of ECOWAS.
The Finance Ministers Meeting was attended by representatives from all the 15 ECOWAS Member States, excluding Mali and Guinea, following their suspension from the regional body over military coup d’etat.
Mauritania, a non-ECOWAS Member State, also participated in the Accra Meeting.
The main objective of the Accra Meeting was to examine and approve the various community legislation, which is meant to enhance the fluidity of intra-community trade and strengthen the ECOWAS Customs union.
Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Finance Minister, in a speech read on his behalf, said with the implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) in 14 ECOWAS member states and Mauritania and the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the need to reform other equally important trade facilitation and Customs Instruments to make the ECOWAS region a strong and economically competitive community had become imperative.
The Minister noted these Trade and Customs Instruments related to the regulation and automation of transit procedure in member states and the reforms and management of intra-community trade in “made-in-ECOWAS” goods.
Mr Ofori-Atta said the ECOWAS Community Levy was instituted on July 27, 1996 by Protocol A/P1/7/96 to replace the mechanism of annual financial contributions from member states, which was the main source of financing the institutions of the Community; adding that it entered into effective application in all ECOWAS member states on July 1, 2003.
He said following several years of implementation of this new financing mechanism, several shortcomings had emerged, in particular, the divergent interpretation of some of its provisions, which affected its effective implementation.
He said there was, therefore, the need to update the entire mechanism to accommodate changes in the institutional environment of ECOWAS and the international economic environment.
The Minister said to this end, a new draft Supplementary Act setting out the conditions, modalities of application, monitoring and management of the ECOWAS Community Levy was proposed for examination and validation by technical experts, Directors General of Customs and Ministers Finance of ECOWAS Member States.
He said additionally, the entry into force of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) on 1st January 2015 in the Member States following the Declaration of the Authority of Heads of State and Government at its 46th Ordinary Session held in Abuja on 15th of December, 2014, marked an important milestone in the establishment of a Customs union in the ECOWAS region.
This, he said, aligned with the provisions of Article 3 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty on the establishment of a common market in the Community.
Dr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President, ECOWAS Commission, in a speech read on his behalf, said ECOWAS Member States needed to establish a stronger economic space, which allowed for the diversification of production and the reduction in the dependence on the export of a few primary commodities to improve economic growth rates, create employment and raise living standards of the people.
Mr Irchad Razaaly, Head of European Union Delegation to Ghana, on behalf of the EU and other development partners in West Africa, assured ECOWAS of the EU’s readiness to deepen its cooperation with the region.
Mr Tei KONZI, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, appealed for heightened support for customs administration, which would have a better connection with neighbouring countries.
Mrs Abena Osei-Asare, Deputy Finance Minister-in-charge of Revenue, speaking to the Ghana News Agency, reiterated the need for ECOWAS Member States to maximize their revenue generation as they build back their economies after the devastating effects of COVID-19.