The ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme – Myth or Reality?

In 1979, the Heads of State and Governments of the Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) established the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS)  pursuant to the overarching objective of promoting co-operation and integration among the Member States.

The aim of the ETLS was to establish a free trade area where enterprises of Member States may move goods within the ECOWAS bloc without paying duties and levies. However for so long, the operational effectiveness of the ETLS has been called to question. Specifically, several enterprises who have tried to leverage the ETLS have noted that the scheme only works on paper and is essentially ineffective. Enterprises of Member States have therefore assumed that the ETLS is a myth and so design export strategies to include payment of duties and levies.

Deloitte and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) recently organised a workshop to evaluate the realities of the ETLS. In attendance at the workshop were representatives of the ECOWAS Commission (EC), Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FMFA), the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and members of the private sector. This workshop sought to demystify and unpack the ETLS in all its ramifications so that intended beneficiaries may be able to make more effective application of the scheme for the purposes of their businesses and thereby improve bottom line performance.

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