A five-day intensive training for twenty-five Journalists from the five ECOWAS English-speaking Countries, in Trade Advocacy, has ended in the commercial Nigerian State of Lagos.
The training, from July 4 to the 8th, was organized by the German organization GIZ in partnership with ECOWAS with funding and other support from the European Union, USAID, World Bank and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands amongst others.
Journalists Varflay Kamara of State radio ELBC, Vivian Nah – Mulbah of the Catholic Radio Maria, Edward Blamo of Kpatawee Post and New Liberia Newspaper, Jackson Foyofayiah of Ok FM and Saywhar Gbaa of ECOWAS Radio represented Liberia at the training.
The journalists, in a communiqué, committed to engaging into a vigorous media advocacy for the full implementation of ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) by their respective Countries.
The ETLS is a tool for achieving a free trade area. It aims to encourage duty free trade among ECOWAS Member States. The objective of the ETLS is to liberalize trade by abolishing customs duties levied on imports and exports and eliminate non-tariff barriers.
But, it appears this and a number of Trade and related legal instruments entered into by ECOWAS are not working to achieve economic growth through investment and trade facilitation in the region.
The ECOWAS trade agreements are essentially multilateral, continental and bilateral in nature.
However, part of the new ECOWAS approach has now shifted to involving media advocacy and awareness about the importance of these trade agreements, and the policies that underpin their existence and implementation by member States.
“Whereas, at the end of the 5-day training, the journalists committed to intensifying awareness creation about the ECOWAS trade facilitation in their respective countries, with the pledge to ensure governments and decision makers are held accountable to the agreed protocols”, the communiqué stated.
It also specifically said: “The trained journalists observed that paucity of technical in-depth knowledge of the key regional instruments especially among the media practitioners is largely responsible for the poor implementation of and support for policies and programs implementation in ECOWAS.”
The communiqué stated that “the trained team of Journalists therefore drew a comprehensive action plan targeted at investing in the wider publicity of ECOWAS instruments and creating awareness among citizens on policies and programs so as to facilitate accountability among political actors in the region, with the ultimate goal of engendering the realization of increased intra-regional trade, regional economic integration, poverty reduction and sustainable development which were the original intendments of the founding fathers of ECOWAS.”
The participants were taken through topics like, Trade Facilitation Agreement, The Media and ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme, Benefits and Opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), The Principles and Objectives of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Media reporting and advocacy techniques amongst other relevant topics regarding economy and trade policies.
At the closing ceremony, lead facilitator, Dr. Ken Ukaoha, urged the participants to use the knowledge gained to change the narrative and be a driving force for societal change.
Dr. Ukaoha said the journalists have been trained to change the dynamics by advocating for the true essence of ECOWAS.
“I want to thank you all for the respect you accorded me through the training period. You all have shown the level of understanding regarding these corporate issues, regarding our systems; ECOWAS, Trade, economic and integration issues and I realized that you were just coming up with the understanding”, Dr. Ukaoha is quoted as saying.
The ECOWAS-GIZ training lead facilitator believes that the journalists are going to be duteous in researching deeper into the issue of ECOWAS , given the seriousness and dutifulness attached to the five-day training.
Meanwhile, the Director of Trade at ECOWAS, Dr. Kolawole Sofola, who officially opened the closed the training with the issuance of certificates, lauded the journalists for their commitment to bridge the gap of media advocacy on ECOWAS Trade Facilitation.
Dr. Sofola, on behalf of the regional body, promised to support every initiative of the journalists for the societal change.
“Generally we are here to see how we can build or strengthen your capacity to advocate more on trade issues. I heard during the discussion where the focus has been more on the Political issues, but the earnest desire to bring us back to what ECOWAS was created for was heard loud and clear”.
The ECOWAS Director of Trade commended the journalists for taking the initiative of reinventing the wheels and highlighted economic growth and employment as benefits of trading.
On behalf of GIZ Nigeria, the Head of Component, Bernard Taryoh, recognized the extraordinary importance participants attached to the training, as well as reaffirmed the commitment of his organization to continue the close partnership with ECOWAS in the area capacity building.
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Journalist Ophaniel Gooding of Sierra Leone thanked ECOWAS and GIZ for the training and pledged participants are going to use the knowledge wisely for the benefit of the entire ECOWAS sub-region.
Mr. Gooding said: “This has been an eye-opener for us. It has been a very valuable opportunity and we are going to take back home the knowledge and experience gained here in order to make a change because what’s really important here is to make a change in Africa”.
Meanwhile, the journalists have created a network which they are expected to collaborate in conducting investigations and engaging local leaders, policy makers and stakeholders to ensure ETLS and all trade facilitation agreements of ECOWAS are adhered to.