19 April 2013

West Africa: GCCI Poised to Implement ISRT to Bolster Ecowas Trade

The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Thursday organised a forum at its Bijilo head office designed to devise ways of implementing the Inter-state Road Transit (ISRT) Scheme in The Gambia, as part of efforts to bolster trade and economic activities within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The forum was meant to sensitise those stakeholders involved in trading within the ECOWAS sub-region as well as the general public with a view to broadening their understanding of the main concept of implementing ISRT scheme in The Gambia.

Speaking at the forum, the chief executive officer of the GCCI, Almamy Fanding Taal, described the scheme as important to the country's economy.

"We are part of the ECOWAS and the ISRT is part of ECOWAS protocols," he stated.

Taal hastened to commend the Ministry of Trade, Integration and Employment for not only taking the leadership role in this process, but for also coming up with the guidelines as to how to operationalise the scheme by being conscious of the possible revenue losses to the GRA.

He commended them for their support in the implementation of the scheme, noting that the efforts would go a long way towards making the ports of the Gambia competitive in the sub-region.

"Once we have the competitiveness, it will benefit the country," he added.

The GCCI CEO went on to assert that they are conscious of the challenging nature of the process, but was quick to state that it is their belief that together they can make headway, especially in making The Gambia a transit point for trade.

"It has always been a dream to make The Gambia a Singapore of West Africa, but all these could happen if there is togetherness," he stated.

Taal further stated that they were engaged with Senegal, and stressed the need to have good working relationships with them.

"People are being sensitised on this scheme because we want to make the ports of Banjul a transit point in West Africa," he reiterated, while informing that efforts have also been made to operationalise the scheme.

An official of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), Joseph Njie, who also spoke at the occasion, informed that they are facilitating the scheme to make transit easier within ECOWAS countries. He stressed the need for a hitch-free transit within ECOWAS member states as that will bolster economic and trade activities within the sub-region.

He described ISRT as the cheapest and most affordable way of trade, thus anticipating that when the scheme is implemented, there will be no more need to pay escort fees as no custom officer will follow the vehicle owner to his destination.

"All that the vehicles owners need is the new (ISRT) number plates, which are out for the ECOWAS states. The transit declaration forms are to be stamped at each checkpoint," he explained, while disclosing plans by them to have vehicle-tracking systems.

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