ECOWAS Trade Experts Review Trade Strategy Regional Aid

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ACCRA – (ECOWAS Secretariat Report) – Trade Experts from Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in a two-day meeting held recently in Accra – Ghana have reviewed the implementation of the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action for Aid for Trade (AfT) which seeks to increase trade in the region and accelerate the integration of Member States into the multilateral trading system.

In a release issued by the ECOWAS Communication Directorate in Abuja lately, the representative of the ECOWAS Commission’s Trade Directorate, Kolawole Sofola explained that the Regional Aid for Trade Strategy (2016-2020) and Action Plan focuses on 3 pillars: Trade Policy and Regulations, Trade – Related Infrastructure and Building Trade – Related Capacity which are based on regional sector programmes and projects. It added that the review of the plan highlighted the progress made and various activities being implemented.

“In the light of recent developments, the meeting agreed on the need to update the regional action plan, taking into account the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); the African Union Agenda 2063; Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and other emerging issues such as digital connectivity, structural transformation, industrialisation and the economic empowerment of marginalised groups involving women and youths,” the report indicated.

“A key tool for effective coordination and collaboration is the ECOWAS AfT website which is currently being updated and would be relaunched in February 2019. The website will enable policy makers, donors and community citizens, amongst others to have access to regional and national information pertaining to the AfT.”

The report further revealed that the meeting provided delegates with an opportunity to take stock of the National Aid for Trade Initiatives, their status of implementation, institutional arrangements and financing. Adding, their presentations highlighted the contributions of AfT to the development of Member States and outlined the challenges being encountered in its implementation. It said while addressing the delegates, the representative of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Theo Mbise stated that between 2006 – 2016, the global financial AfT disbursements amounted to approximately $350 billion with ECOWAS receiving a total of $28.7 billion, majority of which has gone into funding trade-related infrastructure and the building of productive capacity.

Theo Mbise recalled that the 2019 global review which was scheduled for July 2018 was to focus on economic diversification and empowerment for inclusive, sustainable development through aid for trade. He emphasized that the WTO Members, Regional Economic Communities and donors were encouraged to complete the self-assessment questionnaires which was to be presented at the global review.

On his part, the representative of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), Paulin Zambelongo noted that the EIF provides support to 47 Least Developed Countries. He later hinted that 11 of them are ECOWAS Member States and 4 are graduated countries like Cape Verde which is leaving the status of Least Developed Countries.

“68% of EIF initiatives are in Africa, followed by twenty-eight percent in Asia. The EIF has invested more than $60 million in analytical work, intellectual capacity building and productive capacity building,” he noted encouraging them to take advantage of the EIF to fund regional and national projects.

The Participants of the meeting were also familiarised with other trade capacity building initiatives, particularly the ECOWAS Trade Negotiation Capacity Building (TNCB) Project, the WTO Trade – Related Assistance and the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF).