November 16, 2023
There is a knowledge capacity gap on the part of non-state actors, particularly media practitioners in holding public actors accountable for their commitments to the smooth implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of trade instruments.
As a result, the requisite changes at the national and regional levels are inadequate, resulting in low citizen mobilization; weak regional markets and investments, and appalling trade volumes. However, in order to bridge this knowledge capacity gap, GIZ and ECOWAS Commission on Monday, July 4, 2022, began a week-long training for 25 journalists from anglophone West African countries -Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone- at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos – Nigeria. The training which was conducted by the West African Institute for Trade, Agriculture and Development (WAITAD) seeks to enhance the capacity of media practitioners on effective strategies that could trigger improved advocacy and communications efforts towards ensuring that trade and trade facilitation instruments work and impact positively on ECOWAS Member States.
At the opening of the training, the ECOWAS Commission Acting Director of Trade, Kolawole Sofola explained that the media play a key role in educating and informing the public, however
The Commission recognizes that the role of media in the area of Trade Policy and Trade-related interventions has been very limited in the region due to their lack of awareness of issues and topics relating to international trade.
He stated that this is affecting the ability of journalists to effectively provide the much-needed awareness for the business community, especially small and medium enterprises in the sub-region.
The Head of Company and Transit Trade Corridors, Bernard Taiyo explained that their support efforts aimed at supporting collaborative initiatives between the Non-State actors and the public sector with the aim of improving the trade facilitation environment in the region.
He said with new trade facilitation, new protocols are coming up in the continent, including the AfCFTA, hence it is necessary to build the capacity of Civil Society and journalists to understand the implication of these protocols and be able to play a key role.
International trade is critical in the production of wealth, the creation of employment, and the improvement of living standards. The United Nations Conference on Commerce and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that in 2021 world trade was valued at $28.5 trillion. African global trade shares range between 1% and 3%, indicating that the region does not fully capitalize on the wealth created by global trade.
At the region level, the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975 aspires toward 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.
However, 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 who have signed the Agreement.
To date, 54 out of 55 African countries are signatories of the Agreement, including all ECOWAS Member States. 13 of the 15 Member States have ratified the Agreement with only 2 countries Liberia and Benin working towards ratification.
The Agreement enables State Parties to access a larger market of an estimated 1.3 billion people, 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 SMEs, who represent more than 60% of cross-border trade flow within the region to achieve their desired impact.
Despite a succession of trade protocols and agreements signed by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member States, intra-regional trade stagnates at 12 to 15%, whereas Europe enjoys about 70% of trade volume, North America more than 60%, South-East Asia 40%, and Latin America 30%.
In addition, the seeming inaccessibility of information and lack of awareness encourages ignorance among trade players and exposes them to susceptibility and the control of police on corridors and at border crossing points.
It is against this backdrop that the ECOWAS Commission seeks to develop a pool of journalists to assist policy makers to carry along the masses in developing the trade capacity of ECOWAS member States.
The expectation after the training is that the media contribute to the facilitation of cross-border trade in the free movement of goods and people in West Africa by reporting and providing critical input on trade facilitation policy through advocacy and monitoring; promoting and facilitating regional multi-stakeholder dialogue, including Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) on issues related to regional trade policies and trade agreements.
The participants are also expected to create a platform for consultation between corridor stakeholders to establish consensual governance mechanisms for effective policy monitoring.
November 16, 2023
September 22, 2023