Promoting Intra-Ecowas & Cross-Border Trade: A Study on the Perspectives on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence & Establishment

This paper was first presented by Francisca Serwaa Boateng at the Annual Conference of the Federation of West Africa Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) sponsored by ECOWAS in Banjul, the Gambia in May, 2010. 

The contents of this article have become even more relevant in recent times in the light of the creation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which is set to be implemented in January 2020. The issues addressed herein are still prevalent on the continent and they need to be addressed to ensure the successful implementation of the AfCFTA.



Alternative Dispute Resolution


Economic Community of West African States


Economic Commission for Africa

ERA 2010

Economic Report for Africa 2010


Federation of West Africa Chambers of Commerce and Industry


Ghana Investment Promotion Council


Improved Road Transport Governance


United States Agency for International Development


Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program


Current statistics indicate that intra-ECOWAS trade is currently about 11%, which is nothing to write home about. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s 2010 Economic Report for Africa (ERA 2010), intra-African trade continued to be minimal, at less than 10 per cent of total trade in 2009. Africa continued to play a marginal role in world trade in 2009with about a 3.4 per cent share of global merchandise trade and an insignificant share in trade in services. Commodities continue to be the major exports, and export destinations remain concentrated in industrialized countries, although South-east Asia and Brazil are beginning to be important destinations for African exports. The reliance on a narrow range of commodities as well as a narrow range of export markets makes African export earnings extremely vulnerable to volatility in these markets.

In the current global system, the need for enhanced trade among members of the regional body cannot be over-emphasised. It makes business and economic sense for all stakeholders to appreciate the importance of allowing free flow of trade in the ECOWAS sub-region with the resultant growth in GDP, employment creation and poverty alleviation. Furthermore, in this era of increased international cooperation and trade, where countries are removing barriers to trade to give their companies unhindered access to larger markets such as the European Union, ASEAN, NAFTA, the ECOWAS region cannot continue to be just a group of fragmented markets failing to empower its companies to be competitive internationally and play a role in the development of the region.

The effect of the recent global economic downturn on African economies even make it  more imperative for African nations to trade among themselves and harness their own resources for development instead of relying on other nations. The Economic Report for Africa (ERA 2010) opines thus:

“The current global economic crisis has demonstrated the vulnerability of Africa to the fortunes of the global economy. It has also demonstrated that Africa cannot rely on external sources to finance its development in a sustainable way. There is therefore a need for African countries to increase their efforts to mobilize domestic resources to finance development. In the final analysis,
Africa’s development is the responsibility of Africans, and the argument that Africa is a poor continent that cannot finance its own development is getting tired.”

Therefore, the global economic crisis adds new urgency and credibility to mobilizing Africa’s own resources of human and financial capital to ensure that Africans become “masters of their own destinies”. And one sure way to achieve this is through the promotion of trade and investment among our selves.

The ECOWAS Treaty which is the binding legal document regulating the affairs of the Community provides in Article 3(2)(d)  thereof, under  its “Aims and objectives” as follows:

“…the establishment of a common market through:

i) the liberalisation of trade by the abolition, among Member States, of customs duties levied on imports and exports, and the abolition among Member States, of non-tariff barriers in order to establish a free trade area at the Community level;

ii)  the adoption of a common external tariff and, a common trade policy vis-a-vis third countries;

iii)  the removal, between Member States, of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, service and capital, and to the right of residence and establishment.”

In order to achieve the aim of a common market, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government saw the need to promote trade and investment in the ECOWAS sub-region through the adoption of a series of protocols. One such protocol is the Protocol relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment. This protocol was to help actualize the aim of removing all obstacles to free movement of persons, goods and services. It provides as follows:

“The right of entry, residence and establishment which shall be established in the course of a transitional period shall be accomplished in three phases, namely:

Phase I – Right of Entry and Abolition of Visa

Phase II – Right of Residence

Phase III – Right of Establishment

Upon the expiration of a maximum period of five (5) years from the definitive entry into force of this Protocol, the Commission, based upon the experience gained from the implementation of the first phase as set out in Article 3 below, shall make proposals to the Council of Ministers for further liberalisation towards the subsequent phases of freedom of residence and establishment of persons within the Community and phases shall be dealt with in subsequent Annexes to this Protocol.”

The first phase was successfully implemented and so subsequently two further Protocols have been made to ensure the total removal of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, service and capital , and fully ensure the right of residence and establishment. These Protocols were made in 1980 (first phase- Free movement of persons and vehicles) July 1986 (second phase – Right of Residence) and May 1990 (third phase – Right of residence).

In the light of these protocols and decisions, one may be tempted to believe that the free movement of persons and the right of ECOWAS citizens to reside and establish in the territory of any member state is a fait accompli and intra-ECOWAS trade is flourishing. However, that is not the case as the implementation of these Protocols by member states has been anything but impressive.

The purpose of this paper is to familiarize the participants/FEWACCI about these protocols and decisions that have been adopted by ECOWAS to facilitate the free movement of persons, goods and services and the right of residence and establishment within ECOWAS states. It further discusses the challenges and opportunities that are associated with the implementation of each phase of the protocol and recommends practical actions that could be taken to ensure the full implementation of the protocols to promote intra-ECOWAS trade.

This study has been divided into eight sections. It begins with the introduction to the study. The second section gives an overview of the first phase of the protocol which is on the abolition of visas and entry permits and the movement of vehicles for transportation of persons and further identifies some challenges to the full realization of the implementation of this phase. The third section sets out the provisions on the second phase of the protocol which is the right of residence and identifies the main challenges and constraints in its implementation. The fourth section gives a summary of the third phase on the right to establishment and the challenges hampering its full implementation.  The fifth section touches on the decision and resolution passed by ECOWAS setting out the Code of Conduct and Public Enlightenment programmes respectively for member states as to the implementation of the protocol. The sixth section identifies the challenges that have bedeviled the full implementation of all the phases of the protocol and the seventh section makes recommendations for practical action to be taken to actualize the full implementation of the protocol. The conclusion appears in the final section of this presentation.


The first phase of the protocol relates to the abolition of visas and entry permit and the right of movement of vehicles within ECOWAS states. Some of the provisions are as follows:

  • Any citizen of the Community who wishes to enter the territory of any other Member State shall be required to possess a valid travel document and an international health certificate.
  • Any ECOWAS citizen can enter and stay in another ECOWAS country for 90 days without any visa once he enters through an official entry point, for example, airport or border posts. Such citizen shall, however, be required to obtain permission for an extension of stay from the appropriate authority if after such entry that citizen has cause to stay for more than ninety (90) days.
  • However, a member state can refuse the admission of any individual into its territory if that person is inadmissible under its immigration laws.
  • In order to facilitate the movement of persons transported in private or commercial vehicles the following shall apply:
      • – A private vehicle registered in a member state may enter another member state and remain there for 90 days upon presentation of the following documents  to the competent authority of that Member State:
        1. Valid driving licence
        2. Matriculation Certificate (Ownership Card) or Log Book.
        3. Insurance Policy recognised by Member States
        4. International customs documents recognised within the Community.
      • – A commercial vehicle registered in a member state and carrying passengers may enter another member state and remain there for 15 days upon presentation of the following documents  to the competent authority of that Member State :
        1. Valid driving licence
        2. Matriculation Certificate (Ownership Card) or Log Book.
        3. Insurance Policy recognised by Member States
        4. International customs documents recognised within the Community.

Both types are subject to renewal upon request when the permit expires. In furtherance of increased movement of people, ECOWAS has issued ‘brown card’ insurance scheme for inter-state road transport to facilitate effective movement of persons, goods and services. (Agyei & Clottey)

  • Member States undertake to co-operate among themselves by exchanging information on such matters that are likely to affect the effective implementation of this Protocol. Such information shall also be sent to the Executive Secretary for necessary action in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty.
  • This protocol shall not operate to the prejudice of citizens of the Community who are already in residence and established in a Member State provided they comply with the laws in general and in particular the immigration laws of that Member State.
  • Expulsion and repatriation:
      • – A decision to expel any citizen must be made known to the person, his government and the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS.
      • – The expenses incurred in the expulsion of a citizen shall be borne by the Member State which expels him and his security must be guaranteed.
      • – In case of repatriation, the government and Executive Secretary shall be notified.
      • – The person to be repatriated must bear the cost and if he is unable to do so, then his government shall bear it.
  • The provisions of the present Protocol shall not affect more favourable provisions contained in agreements that have already been concluded between two or among several Member States.

In keeping with the provisions of this protocol, all ECOWAS member states have abolished visas and entry permits by citizens of the sub-region. Indeed, the only documents required for travel within the region are a National ID Card or Passport and Health Certificate for Francophone countries and a Passport and Health Certificate for Anglophone countries. Mail, for example, has gone a step further by actualizing the use of the ECOWAS passport but most others, including Ghana, have not done so. But it is worthy of mention that the new Biometric passports launched in Ghana in March 2010 has ECOWAS boldly written on it, perhaps as a step in making travel within the sub-region easier. 

This being the first phase in the implementation of the protocol, it came into effect several years ago but that has not been without challenges. There continue to be difficulty in the movement of persons, goods and services across borders due to ignorance of public officials of the existence of, and provisions in the ECOWAS protocols mentioned above. Even where such officials are aware of the protocols, they ignore or misapply the provisions. Another factor is the ignorance of the citizens of member states of the existence of, and provisions in the ECOWAS protocols mentioned above.

Harassment practices also hinder the implementation of this phase, including the numerous checkpoints on the various corridors, leading to unnecessary delays and extortion of monies from passengers and cargo drivers. In spite of ratifying the protocol which ushered in the free movement of persons in the sub-region, several border checks continue to exist. This has resulted in severe harassment and extortion of money from travellers by security personnel at the numerous checkpoints.

Advocacy has been touted as one of the most relevant tools that have helped to achieve real change, thereby eliminating some of the factors impeding the free movement of goods, services and people within the ECOWAS sub-region and this has been made manifest in the 9th Report of the Improved Road Transport Governance (IRTG) initiative. The report states thus:

“The third quarter of 2009 shows slight improvement compared to the previous quarter. The three primary IRTG indicators have dropped. Efforts undertaken by states and awareness raising and advocacy campaigns undertaken by civil society organizations in partnership with the initiative appear to explain the decreases.”

The IRTG initiative began in 2005 as a joint effort of UEMOA and ECOWAS financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank’s sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) with the West Africa Trade Hub as its implementing partner. The objective of the initiative is good governance along primary trade corridors in West Africa. IRTG monitors trends in road harassment on the Tema-Ouagadougou, Ouagadougou-Bamako, Lomé-Ouagadougou and Bamako-Dakar corridors with the aim of eliminating the barriers, delays and bribes, which affect drivers along major interstate trade routes in West Africa.

There are reports of torture and killings by security personnel in countries like Senegal and Gambia. The killing of 44 Ghanaians in The Gambia by security agencies in 2005 constitutes an example of harassments and difficulties faced by citizens of member states in exercising their right to free movement within the sub-region (Ghanaian Times, 2007) (Agyei et al.)

Retaliatory harassment practices among officers at the various border posts is rife. The Ghana-Togo border at Aflao is a typical example.The chaotic and disorganized nature of the border posts and/or checkpoints is also a problem. In all these, the various governments have not been pragmatic in their effort to ensure the full realization of the provisions of the protocol.

Bribery, corruption and extortion by public officials, including the Police, Customs officials, Immigration officers, weighbridge agents, etc. For instance, the 9th IRTG  Report for July to September 2009 indicates as follows:

‘The Ouagadougou-Bamako corridor has highest level of bribery with agents extorting USD 116.26 per trip or USD 12.64 per 100 km. Most of the bribes are collected along the Malian segment of the corridor with about USD 80.90 collected (of which USD 22.46 is extorted by agents purporting to assess penalties for overloading). The Bamako-Dakar corridor, which submitted its first surveys, follows closely the Ouagadougou-Bamako corridor with bribery reaching USD 100.26 per trip or USD 9.83 per 100 km. The Senegalese segment of the route is primarily responsible with USD 64.17 extorted per trip compared to USD 36.09 on the Malian segment.

The Lomé-Ouagadougou corridor has the lowest level of bribery with USD 44.23 per trip.

In Ghana, the Customs service is the main culprit followed by the Police. Weighbridge agents at the entry to the route at Tema have considerably decreased harassment of drivers for bribes.

In Burkina Faso, the Customs service is the most incriminated for extortion, followed by the Police and the Gendarmerie. In Togo, similarly, the Customs service again has the dubious distinction of leading extortionists, followed by the Police and the Gendarmerie. The uniformed services that deal most harshly with drivers in Mali are, in decreasing order with the highest extortion first, the Police, the Gendarmerie and finally Customs. Senegal’s first road harassment surveys of drivers on the Bamako-Dakar corridor show the Gendarmerie extorting the highest level of bribes followed by the Police.”

Table 1 below presents an overview of the results.


Free movement is also hampered by different official languages at border posts. French, English and a whole lot of other local dialects are spoken in different countries and at their border posts, thereby creating communication problems for citizens from different countries.

It has been realised that ECOWAS has not instituted adequate mechanisms due to the fact that many people in the sub-region do not possess any valid travelling documents including birth certificates. This has been exploited by persons who carry out nefarious activities such as internet fraud, money laundering, human trafficking, etc. There are also concerns that the privileges enshrined in the protocol have been abused by some citizens of the sub-region. Some of the abuses include smuggling of goods and illicit trade in narcotics. These crimes and acts of economic saboteur have led to expression of resentment among officials and the general public in the destination countries. Ghana for instance, has established a Border Patrol Unit within the Ghana Immigration Service to police her borders. In Ghana, recent investigations carried out by a journalist brought to the fore the enormity of the problem of smuggling of cocoa and subsidized fertilizers into neighbouring Cote D’ivoire with the connivance of Customs officers, immigration officials and some police men. This was captured on video and shown on television throughout the country.

The absence of adequate mechanisms to control infiltration of criminals has also been a bane to the implementation of the protocol and this probably accounts for the proliferation of “419” and “Sakawa” phenomenon (believed to have their origins in Nigeria) in Ghana.


The second phase of the protocol guarantees the right of residence of ECOWAS citizens in the territory of other member states and it was ratified by all member states in 1986.   Some of the provisions in the protocol are as follows:

  • All ECOWAS countries shall grant to citizens of ECOWAS the right of residence in their territory for the purpose of seeking and carrying out income earning employment.
  • The right of residence shall include the right :
      • – to apply for jobs ;
      • – to travel freely in that country for that purpose ;
      • – to reside to take up employment ;
      • – to live in the territory according to the legislative and administrative provisions of the host. The only exceptions are for reasons of public order, public security and public health and employment in the civil service.
  • Citizens who enter another state without visas but decide to reside there shall be obliged to obtain an ECOWAS RESIDENCE CARD or a RESIDENCE PERMIT.
  • The application for the RESIDENCE CARD or RESIDENCE PERMIT shall be made to the Department of Immigration.
  • The processing of the application for residence permit must not delay the execution of employment contracts.
  • One year after entry into force, member states should harmonize the application for residence permits to issue ECOWAS Residence cards.
  • Provisions are made for border area, seasonal and itinerant workers.
  • Protection against individual expulsion and respect for the fundamental human rights of migrant workers:
      • – Any expulsion must be based on well-founded legal or administrative decision taken in accordance with the law.
      • – The immigrant, his government and the Executive Secretary must be informed of the decision to expel him.
      • – He has the right of appeal which may lead to a suspension of the expulsion unless national security or public order requires otherwise.
      • – If the immigrant wins the appeal and he has already been expelled, he could claim damages.
      • – Migrant workers have the right to transfer all or parts of his earnings or savings.
      • – There must be co-operation between competent administrative bodies in
      • – Member States shall set up appropriate public organs to deal with the problems relating to the movement of workers and their families.

Since the coming into force of this protocol, some measure of success has been achieved. The flow of population from the sub-region constitutes a relatively large proportion of all immigrants in most of the Member States. Statistics from the Ghana Immigration Service shows that at least one-third of all arrivals in Ghana between 1999 and 2002 are from ECOWAS member states. (Agyei & Clottey)

Several challenges have, however, impeded its full implementation. Among the challenges to implementation are weak institutional frameworks at national and supranational levels. Within most member states, migration policies are handled by different ministries, departments and agencies. Poor coordination, competition and implementation lapses result in several challenges that hinder free movement of people in the region. In Ghana, for instance, the Ministries of Interior, Local Government, Trade and Foreign Affairs have different roles to perform on the state’s migration policy. Poor coordination among these ministries and their numerous departments and agencies may easily result in contraventions of the ECOWAS protocol.

Member states safeguard and protect the interest of only its citizens in each state. This could be explained by the desire to avert internal political upheavals likely to result from low level of economic growth and development. Policies are therefore designed to ensure that available job opportunities are given mostly to nationals rather than shared with non-nationals from the sub-region. It is worthy to note that Ghana’s Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) which repealed Act 160 has no specific provisions for citizens from ECOWAS Member States; the same for the GIPC Act (Act 478), and as such it fails to address the process of integration as espoused in the ECOWAS treaty.

Moreover, most West African states have state- owned welfare systems that are not self-sustaining for their own citizens let alone have nationals of other ECOWAS member states benefit from them. Migration policies therefore target restricting migrants including West African nationals from benefitting in welfare systems of member states. In Ghana, such policies include the School-Feeding program, Free school uniforms program, Capitation grant, LEAP, etc.


This section discusses the salient provisions in the protocol relating to the third phase, that is, the right of establishment. The protocol accord citizens of ECOWAS the right to set up or have access to enterprises in other member states without discrimination. Even in the unlikely even t of expropriation or nationalization, provision is made for the payment of fair and equitable compensation.

For example, in the 20th January 2010 edition of the VANGUARD newspaper published in Nigeria, the  Director for Marketing and Public Relations of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Mr. Edward Ashong-Lartey, was quoted as saying that Nigerian businesses account for about 60 percent of foreign investment in Ghana, aided by the enabling investment climate of the West African country.  In Ghana, several banks carrying on business in Nigeria have set up subsidiaries in Ghana and these include, UBA, GT Bank, Access Bank, Zenith Bank and Intercontinental Bank. In the same vein, UT Financial services, Ghana’s second most respected company recently announced that it was entering the Nigerian market. Regimanuel Gray Estates, an estate development company in Ghana has set up operations in Sierra Leone. It is possible that increases in trade and investment from other ECOWAS countries have been recorded elsewhere. What is not clear is whether or not these cross-border investments were made because of the protocol or due to the enabling business environment created in these countries.

However, a lot more need to be done to ensure the full realization of the provisions in the protocol. There is lack of political will in the implementation of the protocol, e.g. GIPC Act of Ghana (Act 478) which seeks to encourage and promote investments in the country does not make any references to any special dispensation for ECOWAS citizens. Thus, ECOWAS citizens have to fulfil the same conditions imposed on other nationals from elsewhere.

To ensure that member states complied with the provisions of the protocols and help educate their citizens on same, ECOWAS passed a resolution prescribing the code of conduct for member states. A decision was also taken to ensure that member states undertake public enlightenment programmes to help popularize ECOWAS and its work. Some salient provisions in those documents are set out hereunder.


  • Member States shall ensure that their nationals who travel to the territory of another Member State possess valid travel documents recognized within the Community.
  • Member States shall establish or strengthen appropriate administrative services in order to furnish migrants with all necessary information likely to permit legal entry into their territory.
  • In order to avoid illegal recruitment and its negative effects, Member States shall take all necessary measures to exercise stricter control on employers in their territories.
  • The fundamental human rights of illegal immigrants must be protected, but the killing of about 44 Ghanaians in Gambia in 2007 in sharp contrast to this provision.
  • The expulsion and repatriation of illegal immigrants must be done to ensure that the fundamental human rights of those persons are respected.


  • To institutionalize an “ECOWAS NATIONAL WEEK” which will be opened annually by the Head of State of each Member State.
  • The organization of such “ECOWAS WEEK” would be the responsibility of the ECOWAS National Committee and would take place within the period of three months following the meeting of the Authority of Heads of State and Government.
  • To create an ECOWAS periodical which will disseminate the results of the different activities of the Community as well as the progress made in the implementation of the integration measures taken by the Authority.
  • To authorize the Executive Secretariat to encourage the creation of ECOWAS Clubs bringing together people from all social strata to popularize ECOWAS activities.


Under this section, we seek to identify further challenges that attend the free movement of persons, goods and services and the right of residence and establishment despite the existence of the protocols earlier referred to.

First of all, there is general lack of knowledge about the activities of ECOWAS and non-implementation by member states of Decision on the Public Enlightenment Programme for the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, e.g. celebration of “ECOWAS WEEK” and publication of an ECOWAS periodical has not helped matters.

Secondly, within the ECOWAS sub-region, the existence of political and social unrest in some member states distracted the attention of the governments from fulfilling their obligations toward the sub-regional body. In some cases, political unrest serves as a launching pad for the molestation and expulsion of non-nationals. It has been stated that the political crises in the Cote d’Ivoire sparked of hatred for non-nationals especially Burkinabe. Thus, though technically, there is freedom of movement within the sub-region, there are restrictive attitudes resulting in expulsion, widespread harassment and denial of the human rights of migrants.

Thirdly, the free movement of people within the sub-region without restrictions raises issues of tension in states where migrants dominate trade and labour of sections of economies. This creates anti- migration sentiments that degenerate into populist political movements. Such tensions run as undercurrents for destabilizing weak regimes.

Lack of harmonization of national laws and policies on migration as well as inadequate infrastructure to facilitate the realization of borderless West Africa, including the failure to pass domestic laws to operationalize the provisions of the protocols is another challenge inhibiting the operation of the protocols.

Furthermore, the inability to ensure full implementation of the protocol is ascribed to multiple membership and overlapping interests of member states in other groups which can pose serious problems when coordinating or harmonizing policies/programmes. This has adversely affected the smooth implementation of the protocol on free movement of persons. In enacting the protocol, much consideration was not given to the varying and diversities in social, political and economic background of the member states. For example, attempts to introduce common currency for Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia is still on the drawing board. Hence, the expulsion of nationals from member states and harrowing experiences of travelers across borders shows that all is not well with the implementation of the protocol on free movement of persons intended for effective integration of the sub-region.

It has been argued that implementation of the protocol coincided with a period of economic recession in many member states and this resulted in large influx of nationals of West Africa to Nigeria. When the economic situation became unbearable for the government of Nigeria, it revoked article 4 and 27 of the protocol and expelled 0.9 and 1.3 million non-national residents most of them Ghanaians in 1983 and 1985 respectively. Besides Nigeria, other member states which have expelled immigrants of West African origin since the operationalization of the protocol include the Cote d’Ivoire (1999); Senegal (1990); Liberia (1983) and Benin (1998): Agyei & Clottey.

The delay in the implementation of trade liberalization policies such as reduction in customs duties has contributed to slow down efforts at integration and realization of free movement of persons. For instance, reduction of tariff on industrial products did not begin in 1981 as planned and those which should have been achieved within the period 1990 to 2000. This is sometimes attributed to small size and similarity of the economies of the member states.


In the light of all the challenges set out in the preceding sections, the following recommendations for action are made to help deal with most of the problems identified and to promote the full realization of the provisions in the protocol. By so doing, the free movement of persons, goods and services within the sub-region will become a reality and that will help promote intra-ECOWAS trade.

Firstly, there is the need for civil society/non-governmental organizations like FEWACCI to put the necessary pressure on Governments to ensure the implementation of these protocols.

There is also the need to sensitize Governments on the enormous advantages they stand to gain from intra-ECOWAS trade in the long-term as against the short-term loss of income, for example, employment creation in the private sector, less imports from the West (thereby reducing the pressure on the USD and other hard currencies, etc.

In addition, there is the need to sensitize/train public officials; Police, customs officials, weighbridge agents, e.t.c, on the provisions of the protocols and the obligation on their Governments to enforce them. In this regard, for instance FEWACCI, with funding from ECOWAS or other donors (USAID, DANIDA, CIDA e.t.c.,) could help organize training programmes for these officers. It must be stressed that, once a non-governmental body is involved, the officers may take the training seriously and be more amenable to attitudinal change.

Furthermore, the appropriate authorities in the various countries must be lobbied to ensure the cessation of harassment practices by:

  • Reducing the number of road checkpoints on the various corridors to avoid/eliminate corruption/extortion and delays
  • Putting in place sanctions against offending officers, and actually carrying out the sanctions
  • Undertaking periodic checks at these corridors to minimize/eradicate harassment practices.
  • Sensitizing and encouraging the media to expose bad practices at the border posts and corridors, e.g the documentary by Anas Aremeyaw Anas on smuggling of Cocoa from Ghana to Cote D’ivoire with the active participation of corrupt officers: customs, immigration, police and BNI.
  • Setting up Complaints Units where complaints of harassment could be lodged, and/or a Dispute Settlement mechanism along the lines of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism that ensures speedy resolution of disputes.

Another practical action that could be taken to help curb some of the problems is the introduction of programmes aimed at popularizing ECOWAS and its activities in all countries, especially the provisions of the protocols under consideration.

There is also the need for the development of infrastructure (like roads, railways and aviation systems) to ensure hassle-free movement and also to eliminate the chaos at the border posts by re-designing them to ensure transparency and simplify the process of crossing from one country to another. It is gratifying to note that according to the Business Council for Africa- Update on Ghana April 2010 Report,  the World Bank has approved US$228 million for the first phase of the Abidjan-Lagos Trade and Transport Facilitation Program. This regional integration project is intended to overhaul the main transport artery, stretching from Abidjan to Lagos, and the customs and immigration posts and systems located on the nearly 1000-kms road.

Constant advocacy, research and publication/dissemination of the findings to all stakeholders, for example, the West Africa Trade Hub’s IRTG Initiative and the current work being undertaken by FEWACCI should be encouraged and intensified.


Despite the existence of the protocols, intra-ECOWAS trade has not been encouraging due to the challenges stated above. In the current global system, the need for enhanced trade among members of the regional body cannot be over-emphasized. It makes business and economic sense for all stakeholders to appreciate the importance of allowing free flow of trade in the ECOWAS sub-region with the resultant growth in GDP, employment creation and poverty alleviation. From the foregoing, it is quite clear that civil society can help achieve the levels of intra-ECOWAS trade that could help develop our sub-region and deliver our peoples from the bondage of the three evils, namely poverty, backwardness and under-development.



  1. John Agyei & Ezekiel Clottey. “Operationalizing ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of People among the Member States: Issues of Convergence, Divergence and Prospects for Sub-Regional Integration.”
  2. Economic Commission for Africa: “Economic Report on Africa 2010: Promoting high-level sustainable growth to reduce unemployment in Africa”.
  3. VANGUARD Newspaper (Nigeria), 20th January 2010 edition  (quoted in Nigeria News Review – February 2010, compiled by Business Council for Africa, West and Southern).
  4. Ghana Investment Promotion Centre Act, 1994 (Act 478)
  5. Immigration Act, 2000 of Ghana (Act 573)
  6. Rosemary Krofah & Alice Bortey: “Ghana Immigration Laws- A Synopsis”
  7. Business Council for Africa- Update on Ghana , April 2010 Report.
  8. Protocol A/P.1/5/79 Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment.
  9. The Treaty of ECOWAS, dated 24th July, 1993.
  10. Supplementary Protocol A/SP/.1/7/86 on the second phase (right of residence) of the protocol on free movement of persons, the right of residence and establishment.
  11. Supplementary Protocol A/SP.2/5/90 on the Implementation of the Third Phase (right of establishment) of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment.
  12. Supplementary Protocol A/SP.1/7/85 on the Code of Conduct for the implementation of the protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the right of residence and establishment .
  13. Decision A/DEC.10/5/82 relating to the application of the protocol relating to the free movement of persons and the public enlightenment programme
  14. Decision A/DEC.6/6/89 amending article 9 of Decision A/DEC.1/5/83 relating to the adoption and implementation of a single trade liberalisation scheme for industrial products originating from member states of the community
  15. Supplementary Protocol A/SP.1/6/89 amending and complementing the provisions of article 7 of the protocol on free movement, right of residence and establishment
  16. Resolution A/RES.2/11/84 of the authority of Heads of State and Government on the implementation of the first phase of the protocol relating to the free movement of persons, the right of residence and establishment
  17. Improved Road Transport Governance (IRTG) Initiative on Interstate Trade Corridors: Results for the period Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 2008 (West Africa Trade Hub/USAID)
  18. Improved Road Transport Governance (IRTG) Initiative on Interstate Trade Corridors: Results for the period April 1 to June 30 2009 (West Africa Trade Hub/USAID)
  19. Improved Road Transport Governance (IRTG) Initiative on Interstate Trade Corridors: Results for the period July 1 to September 2009 (West Africa Trade Hub/USAID)
  20. Improved Road Transport Governance on Primary Corridors: Results of surveys taken Jan. 1 to March 31, 2009 (West Africa Trade Hub/ USAID)




  1. Kwame Asuah Takyi, Esq., Assistant Director and Acting Head of the Legal Department, Ghana Immigration Service, Headquarters, Accra, Ghana.
  2. Roberta Asamoah (Mrs), Immigration Officer, Greater Accra Regional Office, Ghana Immigration Service, Accra.
  3. Perpetua Dufu ( Mrs.), Deputy Director, Africa Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Accra, Ghana.
  4. Frederick Alipui, Managing Director, AFRINVEST Consult Ltd, Accra.
  5. Ata Koram, AFRINVEST Consult Ltd, Accra.


Francisca Serwaa Boateng is the Founder & Managing Counsel of FSB Law Consult.

Contact: | Tel: 0302818433/0208195042 |

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