𝐁𝐲 𝐉𝐚𝐧𝐞 𝐁. 𝐌𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐲
“International Trade plays an important role in the creation of wealth, jobs and improving the standard of living of citizens”, ECOWAS Commission Acting Director of Trade, Mr.Kolawole Sofola said at the opening of a five – day trade facilitation capacity building training for Anglophone Journalists, held at the Radisson Blu, Ikeja Lagos city in Nigeria.
The establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), according to Mr. Kolawole Sofola has facilitated the international exchange of goods worldwide, and according to the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), global trade was worth 28.5 Trillion United State Dollars in 2021.
The Share of the African Continent in global trade is said to be between the averages of 1% and 3%; an indication that the Continent is not taking full advantage of the wealth generated by World Trade.
Despite the numerous Trade Agreement signed by African Countries, Sofola said, a number of factors including the lack of productive capacity, poor trade infrastructure, high cost of trading across borders, lack of awareness on Trade benefits and large informal trade sector continue to keep the continent in the margin of world trade.
ECOWAS is established in 1975 and aspires towards a deeper economic integration with the adoption of a number of instruments including the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Schemes (ETLS), the Common External Tariff (CET) and other programs and initiatives relating to trade promotion, trade facilitation, negotiation and policy formulation.
With the entry into force in 2019 of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the commencement of trading under the AfCFTA in January 2021, the continent ushered in a new era in its economic transformation process with the biggest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of countries that have signed the agreement.
To date,54 out of 55 African countries including ECOWAS Member States are said to be signatories; 13 out of the 15 Member States confirmed to have ratified the agreement with the 2 countries (Liberia and Benin) working towards ratification.
The agreement, according to Mr. Kolawole Sofola will enable state parties access a larger market of an estimated 1.3 Billion people to utilize their comparative advantages and boost their economic growth.
The various trade agreements and initiatives require the full participation of the business community, especially small traders as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which represent more than 60% of cross border trade flow within the region to achieve their desired impact.
The Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program is a multi-donor programme funded by the EU, USAID, GIZ, the Netherlands and Germany and implemented by GIZ and the World Bank. It is aimed at supporting the region to improve the free and efficient movement of goods regionally and internationally through reduction of cost of trading across borders.
Mr. Sofola recognised the role of the media in the area of trade policy and trade related interventions which has been very limited in our region due to their lack of awareness on issues and topics relating to International Trade, thereby affecting their ability to effectively provide the much needed awareness of business community, especially SMEs.
Overall objective of the training is to allow the media to contribute to the facilitation of cross border trade in the free movement of goods and people in West Africa, thereby creating platforms for consultation between corridor stakeholders to establish consensual governance mechanisms and for effective policy monitoring.