ECOWAS mulls trade support bodies to boost regional ties

ECOWAS Commission Headquarters

ECOWAS Commission Headquarters

Worried by the consistently low level of integration recorded by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states despite the implementation of the protocol on free movement of people and goods, stakeholders in the region have mulled the establishment of trade support bodies to address the challenges.

Specifically, the regional body is proposing an ECOWAS Business House (EBH) to serve as a business oriented organisation at the regional level to facilitate trade among member countries.

Indeed, the stakeholders noted that the 12 per cent level recorded in regional trade remains relatively low considering the adoption of the ECOWAS protocol since 2000.

The Commissioner, Industry, and Private Sector Promotion, ECOWAS, Kalilou Traore, explained that‎ ECOWAS having adopted the protocol on free movement of people and goods since 2000 still records a low trade volume of 12 per cent, thus necessitating a need to take more actions to address the issues.

He stressed the need to strengthen regional trade in the region, noting that the only way to achieve this feat is through the establishment of trade support bodies.

Traore, during ‎a technical meeting convened in Lagos by the ECOWAS Private Sector Directorate to consider the draft on the ECOWAS Business House (EBH), said: “We need to take more action to strengthen this regional trade‎ and one way to do that is through trade support bodies. We are here to develop the concept of an ECOWAS Business House (EBH) that will be a business oriented organisation at the regional level to facilitate trade among member countries.”

He stated the importance of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) development while expressing concerns on the status of the implementation of some regional programmes including the ECOWAS quality programmes, regional payments system, private sector and MSME development strategies and efforts at establishing the common market for free movement of persons and goods.

He said the overall goal of EBH system is to foster intra-regional trade, promote ECOWAS exports and deepen market penetration for MSMEs in the region.

He noted that it would also facilitate bulk creation, high quality regime and standardisation in the region, reduce cost of business for SME companies and promote ‎the establishment of relevant trade infrastructure including quality infrastructure in the region.

“Our expectation is that within the first five years of establishment of the regional EBH, apart from ‎boosting the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the regional economies, made-in-ECOWAS States product will be viable and visibly present for business in the regional market and companies to reap the gains from international trade.

Also, the Head, Business and Enterprise Promotion, ECOWAS, Dr. Enobong Umoessien, stressed that the region has enjoyed a lot of support from countries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and groups, but stressed the need for the region to look inward by establishing a platform to drive the region’s project and harness the resources available in the region to drive development and also contribute to developing the region.

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