Accra, 21st December 2018. Trade Experts from Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in a two-day meeting which ended on 21st December 2018 in Accra, Ghana, 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.
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, namely: Trade Policy and Regulations, Trade Related Infrastructure and Building Trade Related Capacity, which are based on regional sector programmes and projects. The review of the plan highlighted the progress made and various activities being implemented.
In 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 including digital connectivity, structural transformation, industrialisation and the economic empowerment of marginalised groups such as women and the youth.
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 AfT.
The meeting also provided delegates with an opportunity to take stock of national Aid for Trade initiatives, their status of implementation, institutional arrangements, and financing. Their presentations highlighted the contribution of AfT to the development of Member States and outlined challenges being encountered in its implementation.
Addressing the delegates, Theo Mbise, the representative of the World Trade Organization (WTO), stated that between 2006-2016, global financial AfT disbursements have 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 building productive capacity.
Mr. Mbise further stated that the 2019 global review scheduled for July 2018 would focus on economic diversification and empowerment for inclusive, sustainable development through Aid for Trade. All WTO Members, Regional Economic Communities and donors were encouraged to complete the self-assessment questionnaires which will be presented at the global review
The representative of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), Paulin Zambelongo noted that the EIF provides support to 47 Least Developed Countries (11 of them are ECOWAS Member States) and 4 graduated countries (including Cape Verde) which are 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 encouraged 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 like the ECOWAS Trade Negotiation Capacity Building (TNCB) project, the WTO Trade Related Assistance and the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF).