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Best wishes, West Africa

By Umaru Fofana

As the world grapples with job-creation for its rapidly growing population, win-win business policies should be the priority of any serious government. 

Economic activity was at the heart of the creation of ECOWAS by West African leaders. Two of the main priorities to achieving this have to be ease of movement and that of communication. 

So I wonder why regional leaders have still not made movement easy for goods and services beyond the old idea. Yes their citizens don’t require a visa to move around. It can be argued that this applies only in the air - with land travellers at the mercy of rogue police and customs officials without consequence -  but a good idea nevertheless. 

However, non West African (business) travellers struggle to move within the region. I think it should be made a policy that anyone with a visa to enter any ECOWAS member state should be allowed to move freely to any other member state without the need for another visa. Like in most EU member countries. 

This will significantly ease the climate for businesspeople and with it so many concomitant effects including more jobs, more income and other taxes. Obviously public security and health should still be considered - even though with visa restrictions right now those are hardly thought about by most of the member states. 

Ecowas leaders should also find ways of ensuring that the telecoms industry harmonises itself. This is lacking even within the borders of individual member states let alone in the broader region. This should include automatic access to voice call and data without a mobile phone user having to register for roaming. The tariff could be made a bit higher but automatically accessible. So once I switch on my phone I should be able to call and access internet automatically. 

I had to buy a new SIM card in Ghana yesterday and another new one in Ivory Coast today. And in Abidjan people queued up some for over 30 minutes at the airport to be able to do so. I know some of the companies argue that they already do. Not all do what they claim to be doing. And for those who do do what they claim, the tariffs are prohibitive. I don’t want to name names at this point but I’ve used the service of quite a few of the mobile phone operators in quite a few counties in the subregion. 

Lessen the hassle, remove red tape, tackle corruption with seriousness, and make business grow in West Africa. Wishing the region all the best. 

Just my thoughts of the moment.

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