“Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration Committed to Regional Integration,” V.P Boakai

Sunday, 27th February 2011

Monrovia, Liberia - Liberian Vice President Joseph N Boakai, Sr. says the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration is committed to regional integration and direct relationship among peoples of the sub-region.

He said this is evidenced by the fact that the Liberian Government has not only acceded to and ratified all treaties and conventions promulgated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) , but is following through on the ECOWAS protocols on ‘free movement of peoples and goods’ through effective border management.

Vice President Boakai was speaking at the weekend during the launch of a project aimed at promoting regional integration through trade within the ECOWAS sub-region.

The six-month project funded by the European Union, is aimed at raising awareness on the protocols and conventions that have been signed by ECOWAS member states on free movement of people, goods and services within ECOWAS countries, as well as ECOWAS Vision 2020 that seeks to create an ECOWAS of people, where any ECOWAS citizen can reside and work in any country he chooses in the sub-region without residence or work permit.

Speaking further, Vice President Boakai said the Liberian Government is putting in place mechanisms to prevent illegal trade in goods coming from neighboring countries or leaving Liberia and entering another country, adding, “And we are trying to ensure that our borders are welcoming, hospitable and remain entrances of integration.”

He added that the Liberian Government is working with its neighbors at each of its border points to create trucking policies that reduce transit costs and enhance safety of roads. “As we enter a future of regional integration, we like to begin planning for safe Inter-ECOWAS Highway  projects between member countries that will create jobs on both sides of the border,” the Liberian Vice President added.

The Liberian Vice President called for close collaboration with stakeholders to empower peoples engaged on both sides of Liberia’s borders to protect them from getting in harm’s way.

He challenged Liberian market women to utilize the opportunity afforded by the six-week training to learn the rights and privileges existing in the ECOWAS statutes aimed at protecting them, their goods and their markets, not only in Liberia but in all the member states of ECOWAS engaged in commerce across borders.

Giving an overview of the project earlier, Mr. Augustine S.Arkoi, President of the Better Future Foundation, the only local NGO in Liberia contracted to conduct the six-week awareness on the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of people, goods and services, said in Liberia his organization is creating this awareness among state agents such as customs, police and immigration officers across the country, as well as persons engaged in cross-border trade.

He said as part of the awareness, he will impress upon stakeholders that inasmuch as they have rights and privileges, they also have a responsibility to fully comply with and adhere to laws ECOWAS member states have committed themselves to.

“The women need to know some of those businesses that they should not venture into; that are not permitted under our laws. They also need to know that even in engaging in businesses that are legal, they need to get the cooperation of the other side,” Mr. Arkoi added.   

In remarks, a representative of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, the body statutorily responsible to coordinate and monitor ECOWAS activities in Liberia, said his ministry was impressed with the initiative, which is geared towards sensitizing and enhancing free movement of people, goods and services across borders within the West African region.

He assured the Better Future Foundation of his ministry’s unflinching support to this effort, and that they will continue to engage the organization every step along the way in line with the wishes of the ECOWAS Commission.

Also making remarks, a representative of the Ministry of Gender and Development said the ministry has mobilized women engaged in cross-border trade into an association to enable them advocate for things that affect them.

She observed that women engaged in cross-border trade contribute significantly to the Liberian economy and hence the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

She said the Ministry of Gender and Development looked forward to working with the Better Future Foundation to educate women about their rights as they go across the borders, and expressed optimism that the awareness would help empower the women and enhance the nation’s economic sector.