The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, through the Trade Directorate organized a Regional Experts Meeting on the ECOWAS Informal Trade Regularization Support Program (PARCI/ITRSP) from 22-24 March 2023 in Accra, Ghana.
The overall objective of the Meeting was to review the operationalization of PARCI/ITRSP and to consider the expansion of the Informal Cross Border Trade (ICBT) data collection exercise across other corridors in the region.
In a speech read on behalf of Madame Massandjé TOURE-LITSE, ECOWAS Commissioner for Economic Affairs & Agriculture, Mr. Kolawole SOFOLA, Acting Director of Trade recalled that despite efforts undertaken by the Commission to promote trade and increase intra community trade, intra-community trade is still reported to be between 11 and 13 percent.
He underscored the relevance of the objectives of the meeting highlighting the need to ensure the accurate and timely capturing of informal cross border trade data to augment those already captured through the official customs databases of Member States.
Dr John-Hawkins ASIEDU, Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Trade & Industry, welcomed the Experts to the meeting on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Ghana. He urged the region to focus on building resilient sustainable systems as well as promoting industrialization as part of boosting intra-regional trade ; undertake relevant regulatory reforms; and work to improve the region’s competitiveness.
Before declaring the meeting open, Mr. Lassana FATI, Director General at the Ministry of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Guinea Bissau and Chair of the meeting, urged participants to take into consideration the region’s desire of achieving a deepened regional integration and economic development hinged on increased trade as they embarked on deliberations.
As part of the outcome of the meeting, the Experts agreed to deepen collaboration at the national and regional levels to ensure the effective and inclusive implementation of the ITRSP components, in particular the component relating to the capturing of ICBT data and internalizing them into official national and regional statistics databases.
The Experts further expressed their commitment to the development of a continental ICBT data collection methodology within the framework of the African Continental Fee Trade Area (AfCFTA), leveraging off good practices of the ECOWAS Informal Cross Border Trade (ECO-ICBT) and the Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network (RATIN) methodologies deployed in the ECOWAS Region, and the Eastern & Southern Africa respectively.
The meeting validated the ITRSP revised Roadmap and a Technical Note on ICBT data collection for onward submission to the Joint Meeting of ECOWAS Ministers of Trade and Industry through the ECOWAS Senior Trade officials and considered ways of mobilizing needed resources for the implementation of the four(4) components identified under the PARCI/ITRSP.
The meeting was attended by Trade and Statistics Experts from ECOWAS Member States as well as representatives from the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions, the Permanent Inter State Committee for the fight against Drought in the Sahel ( CILSS), African export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), West Africa Association of Cross border Traders in Agro-sylvo pastoral, livestock and fisheries (WACTAF/AOCTAF) and Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC).