ECOWAS, EU hold conference on regional integration

Mnena Iyorkegh, Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, says it is committed to implementing programmes that would facilitate regional integration and make it work for private sector operators and the people of West Africa.

The Director of Trade, ECOWAS Commission Dr. Gbenga Greg Obideyi stated this at a workshop on the “Improved and Facilitated Trade in West Africa Project in Ghana”.

The intended outcome is to discuss and agree on a reform action plan to improve trade facilitation along the main corridors of Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger and Ghana.

Delphine Aupicon, Program Officer / Macro-economic and Trade Section who represented Ambassador William Hanna, Head of the EU Delegation to Ghana said “The fact that European Union is financing this event is a testimony of the importance we give to the promotion of the private sector as an engine for an economic and social development of West Africa. Our support to improving trade conditions is a priority of the EU cooperation with the region.

The Improved and Facilitated Trade in West Africa Project also focuses on reducing the time and cost to trade, and increasing border agency cooperation and coordination, to encourage a better flow of goods within the region, and with international trading partners.

In this vein, the International Finance Corporation IFC Country Manager for Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Togo, Ronke-Amoni Ogunsulire, said “West African countries have enormous potential to strengthen competitiveness and increase trade flows, which can drive growth, reduce poverty, and deliver jobs to the region. The World Bank Group is pleased to be working in partnership with regional organisations, member states, the private sector and development partners to help these countries unlock transit challenges along key trade corridors, and improve their competitiveness within the global economy,”

The workshop had over forty participants, including representatives from the ECOWAS and the West African Economic Monetary Union  Commissions, the European Union, the World Bank Group, and stakeholders from the public and private sector.

The Improved and Facilitated Trade in West Africa Project is a four-year initiative that was launched in November 2014.

It would be recalled that the EU had donated three point five million Euros to ECOWAS to fund the Improved and Facilitated Trade in West Africa Project, the project is a four-year initiative which seeks to support and improve trade in the West African region and, specifically, transit trade along the region’s major trade corridors.