Trade reforms can improve food supplies in West Africa
Regional and continental trade pacts open the door to free trade in food and farm goods. The 10th Annual Borderless Conference in Tema, Ghana brought together experts from government, business, and international organizations to look at how to deliver on that potential.
Borderless Alliance, a group which advocates for removing trade barriers, organized the event with the German Development Agency GIZ to look at trade within the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
‘This 2023 edition holds particular relevance for the private sector,’ said Jonas Lago, President of Borderless Alliance. ‘It falls upon us to conduct the necessary analysis and devise solutions to tackle the prevailing challenges. Our success in the ECOWAS region would serve as blueprint in the Africa continental area."
Vianney Lesaffre, a market analyst at the International Trade Centre (ITC) delegation, presented data on domestic regulations and how to address these trade obstacles.
These insights revealed that 60% of the burdensome regulations originate domestically. Using the Trade Obstacle Alert Mechanism (TOAM), a tool developed by ITC, Vianney Lesaffre showed that 51% of the obstacles reported pertain to the agricultural sector.
He also showed data tools in the African Trade Observatory, is another invaluable ITC resource for targeting and resolving issues in agriculture.
Clearing procedural obstacles at borders both for agribusinesses and small-scale cross-border traders can improve food security, said Timothée Bruneteau, trade facilitation adviser at ITC.
The momentum around the implementation of the AfCFTA offers an opportunity to address inefficiencies at borders. The AfCFTA Protocols and annexes on Trade Facilitation, Customs cooperation and Transit and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement offer enhanced transparency, predictability, and efficiency in Africa.
Full implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement could reduce the costs of trading perishable goods by 18%.
Innovative and inclusive trade facilitation solutions can further boost food trade, while supporting regional efforts to curtail food costs.
Innovative technology to make trade easier
Even more innovative and inclusive tools can further boost food trade, while supporting regional efforts to curtail food costs.
‘The essence of ICT lies in information, and through technology, we drive change,’ said Isaac Newton Acquah, the NTF V national project coordinator for the tech sector.
Often, small businesses think their challenges are financial, when the real obstacle may be solved by technology, he said.
Linking tech associations with small farmers makes technology more accessible, he said, while agents share vital information and build trust, That leads to agricultural growth.
The conference looked at how to strengthen regional value chains. Furthermore, it explored strategies to align domestic policies with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), said Gyand Dermitta, Senior Advisor to the AfCFTA Secretary-General.
In addition, Kabir Hassa, Trade Advisor of the ECOWAS Agricultural Trade (EAT) programme at GIZ, underscored the program's overarching objective. He stressed the pivotal role it plays in elevating ECOWAS to a level where Africa can fully harness the potential opportunities offered by the AFCFTA, ultimately benefiting the entire African continent. This initiative's significance lies in its capacity to position ECOWAS to seize the potential of the AFCFTA for the greater good of Africa.
Benonita Bismarck, CEO of Ghana Shippers Authority, emphasized the ‘indispensable role of agricultural value chains. Each stakeholder has a crucial part to play in unlocking the full potential of these value chains.’
About ECOWAS Agricultural Trade (EAT) Programme
Funded by BMZ, the GIZ ECOWAS Agricultural Trade (EAT) Programme is a special initiative “One World – No Hunger” dedicated to strengthening regional integration through intra-regional agricultural trade in the ECOWAS region. GIZ is the main implementing agency, with ITC as partner, collaborating with the ECOWAS Commission with the directorates responsible for agriculture and rural development, trade, customs, free movement of people, and the Gender Development Center. The program's central objective is to enhance the capacity and services of regional and national organizations, with a particular emphasis on improving agri-food policies, sustainability, gender sensitivity, trade facilitation inclusivity, and active engagement with SMEs and professional associations in the sector.