Truck drivers carrying livestock along trade corridors in West Africa would have paid over US$1million in bribes without ´┐Żroad coaching´┐Ż during the first quarter of this year, a monitoring report of USAID Agribusiness and Trade Promotion (USAID ATP) project has revealed.
´┐ŻBy applying our strategy, they have saved about a quarter million US dollars,´┐Ż said the report.
The report, which investigated bribe payments along three value-chains livestock, onion and maize -- trade corridors, said bribes saved by onion and maize drivers were much smaller, but the total savings will be significant over the life of the project.
During the first quarter of last year, truck drivers carried 78,471 tonnes of onions in 3,270 trips and paid US$323 per trip in bribes at the beginning and end of the 825-mile onion corridor from the Niger-Burkina Faso border to Accra.
However, in the last quarter of 2010, they paid US$269 ´┐Ż representing a 17 percent decrease. Corroborating this, Dawara Aboubacar, a truck driver who frequents the onion trade corridor said: ´┐ŻDoing business along the Kantchari´┐ŻAccra corridor is now good as compared to previous times when security agents took advantage of our ignorance to collect large sums of money from us.´┐Ż
Aboubacar added: ´┐ŻThrough education, we now insist on doing the right thing, thereby paying less to the security agents. We even have the courage to resist payments suspected to be illegal.´┐Ż At ´┐Żmarket shows´┐Ż in major regional markets and ´┐Żroad shows´┐Ż at rest stops, drivers and traders are coached on the required documents for transporting goods across borders and also on professional conduct.
The ´┐Żroad shows´┐Ż also present an opportunity for direct advocacy, when drivers/traders and public officials are brought face-to-face to express their concerns. In road coaching, a project assistant travels with a driver and trader, getting a close-up view of road harassment, observing how the driver and trader interact with officers, and documenting the harassment that occurs.
Road harassment reports are conducted quarterly by USAID personnel, and various handouts such as fact-sheets and copies of key road documents are distributed. USAID personnel also establish personal relations with certain key security agents in corridor countries, working with them to find a solution to the problems.
The project, to end in September 2012, is designed to improve trade for agricultural growth and food security in eight West African countries including Ghana. The data collected are used to generate reports on road harassment, which results in high commodity costs across the region.
The data also help in planning for the enhancement of the improved road transport governance activities pursued by ECOWAS and UEMOA. Road transport and logistics play key roles in the development of intra-regional trade in West Africa, but road harassment and bribes have made cross-border trading unnecessarily difficult for traders and drivers.
In West Africa, truck drivers and traders in the agriculture sector lack professionalism, and many are illiterate or do not know what papers to carry.
As a result, they often feel compelled to stop and even get off their trucks at road blocks, thus exposing themselves to bribes/extortion. If they know what is legal and what is not, and have all their paperwork in order and act professionally, they are not subject to as much harassment.
Project coaches not only trained more than 100 truck drivers in the law and their responsibilities, but also rode with six of them -- making sure they did what they were supposed to and that they taught their colleagues along the way. The result was fewer stops and delays, and fewer bribes paid when still pressed to do so.
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