- Emerging from more than a decade of conflict, Sierra Leone has now embraced regional economic and trade integration as a key element of its reconstruction. The Freetown government is implementing fast reforms to bring its trade regime in line with partners of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Sierra Leone has now aligned about 1,000 of its tariff lines with those prevailing under the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET). While Sierra Leone is requesting temporary exceptions from the CET for strategic products, the momentum towards participating fully in the ECOWAS plan for a Customs Union and Single Currency is undeniable.
The Freetown government is participating in the West African ECOTRADE project, which gathers ECOWAS countries that are not members of the franc CFA monetary union of most French speaking West Africa. While the countries of the CFA monetary union are already applying the ECOWAS Common External Tariff, the ECOTRADE project aims at spreading this trade regime to all of ECOWAS, including Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
To promote the building of local capacity to effectively analyse alternative paths for trade policy making, ECOTRADE has encouraged Sierra Leonean public officials and local consultants to prepare a study on the impact of adopting the ECOWAS Common External Tariff on government revenue, agriculture and the balance of payments.
Sierra Leone's Technical Coordinating Committee has concluded that the Common External Tariff "will result in improved transparency, reduced incentive for smuggling and in customs duties being collected on a greater share of imports." Sierra Leone recently published a brochure listing the customs duties, sales taxes, and income withholding taxes for 75 commodities, greatly improving transparency for traders and consumers.
Since an urgent national priority for Sierra Leone is the reconstruction of roads and buildings after the long war, some products used in construction - steel rods - will be the subject of special rates during the CET implementation period. Products related to agricultural production and food security—for instance, rice—may also receive separate treatment for the next few years.
As in other West African countries, the process for considering the economic impact of adopting the ECOWAS CET is leading Sierra Leone to adopt other reforms. For example, Sierra Leone will come into greater compliance with the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation, using transaction value instead of the more arbitrary Brussels system of valuation, which relies on customs officials setting a normal price for a good.
Sierra Leone is one of the ECOWAS countries that is fastest in implementing the ECOTRADE programme for economic integrations of West Africa. The Freetown government has received funding from several foreign donors, including the US development agency USAID, to finance the reform project.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.