PUBLISHED ON May 16th, 2024

ECOWAS focuses on empowering Agri-Food Value Chains

he ECOWAS Commission organized the 5th Meeting of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC) in Cotonou, Benin from 30th April to 3rd May 2024. The meeting aimed to advance the status of regional trade facilitation initiatives within the ECOWAS region whilst focusing on enhancing the implementation of existing initiatives, addressing non-tariff barriers, and strengthening the agri-food value chain.  

On behalf of Madam Shadiya Alimatou Assouman, the Honourable Minister of Industry and Trade of Benin, Mr. Benjamin ALAMENOU welcomed participants to Cotonou. In his remarks, he outlined the need to overcome trade barriers to realize the vision of free trade and the importance of initiatives like the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), Brown Card Scheme, and Common External Tariff (CET) towards achieving the ECOWAS Vision 2050. He called upon Member States to leverage the meeting as a platform for engaging in productive discussions to collaboratively address trade barriers and foster regional trade growth. 

The ECOWAS Resident Representative to Benin, Ambassador Amadou DIONGUE extended a warm welcome to the meeting’s participants and partners collaborating with Member States to advance trade facilitation in the region. He highlighted the significance of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and highlighted the progress made in implementing trade facilitation measures in the region including the establishment of National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFC) and the RTFC. 

Inspection Of Seme Krake Jbp By Rtfc
Inspection Of Seme Krake Jbp By Rtfc

The representative of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment from the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Chairperson of the meeting, Mr. Usman ABDULLAHI highlighted the importance of fostering a strong regional trade ecosystem in the face of a challenging global environment. He reinforced the importance of cooperation and collaboration between the NTFCs in promoting trade facilitation.

In his opening remarks on behalf of Madame Massandje TOURE-LITSE, ECOWAS Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture, Mr. Kolawole SOFOLA, Director of Trade, noted the importance of trade facilitation in navigating the current global trade landscape, including post-pandemic economic recovery and geopolitical disruptions. He recognized the significance of the agriculture sector as a vital economic sector in the region and acknowledged the unique obstacles faced by this sector in cross-border trade, particularly for women and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). He emphasized that implementation of the regional trade facilitation initiatives would prove instrumental in effectively confronting these challenges. 

The meeting considered the status of the implementation of the WTO-TFA and regional trade facilitation instruments. Updates were provided on the progress of implementation, highlighting areas of success and identifying challenges requiring attention. The meeting urged Member States to prioritize compliance and implementation of these initiatives to achieve greater progress in regional trade facilitation. The meeting considered initiatives to bolster the agricultural food value chain within the region in order to promote economic development and food security. Furthermore, a capacity-building training equipped participants with the skills to develop effective communication strategies for engaging with key stakeholders on these issues.

Consultations With Benin Border Authorities At Seme Krake Jbp
Consultations With Benin Border Authorities At Seme Krake Jbp

The meeting also included a field visit to the Nigeria-Benin (Seme-Kraké) joint border post, where participants engaged with the Customs Comptrollers of both countries, along with the Nigerian Comptroller of Immigration and the Beninese Head of Police services stationed at the post. During the visit, participants were guided through the facilities and briefed on operational procedures at the border. The joint border post fosters cooperation between the two countries in facilitating the movement of goods and individuals across the border, however, it encounters challenges such as inadequate equipment and security issues. Consequently, participants formulated proposals aimed at addressing these impediments.

The Fifth (5th) RTFC Meeting was attended by Experts from Member States representing the Ministries responsible for Trade, Customs Administrations, Agriculture, and the National Chamber of Commerce. Also present at the meeting were representatives from the ECOWAS Commission, and the Regional Business Associations, along with representatives from the World Bank Group, the International Trade Center, the German Agency for International Development, TradeMark Africa, and the ETLS Task Force.

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