The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken significant strides in bolstering trade and investment following the successful validation of key regional instruments during a momentous two-day meeting held in Abuja, Nigeria. Organised by the ECOWAS Commission, the gathering of trade officials, which convened from November 28 to 29, 2023, aimed at deliberating pivotal trade matters to enhance intra-regional trade and elevate West Africa’s engagement in global trade.
Addressing the assembly, Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Acting Director of Trade at the ECOWAS Commission, echoed the pivotal role of trade in the integration efforts of ECOWAS. He emphasised the necessity of formulating and executing policies to fortify national economies. Sofola, speaking on behalf of Mrs. Massandjé Toure-Litse, Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture, highlighted the significance of the meeting’s outcomes, indicating their crucial role in guiding trade ministers’ decisions regarding regional trade instruments and initiatives.
Mrs. Zulaikha Abdullahi, Deputy Director of Trade at the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment (FMITI) of Nigeria and chair of the meeting, extended gratitude to the ECOWAS Commission for orchestrating the gathering. She underscored ECOWAS’ dedication to advancing regional interests and labelled the meeting as a platform to consolidate achievements in trade promotion. Abdullahi urged the officials to engage in productive discussions while considering various trade instruments.
The trade officials deliberated on and validated the ECOWAS Trade and Investment Promotion Strategy (ECOTIPS) alongside recommendations outlined in the Technical Note on Informal Cross-Border Trade (ICBT). These endorsements are set to be presented at the upcoming ECOWAS Ministers of Trade meeting for deliberation and adoption. Additionally, progress was reviewed on the development of the ECOWAS Common Commercial Policy (CTP), the Regional Trade and Transport Facilitation Strategy (RTTFS), and the Non-Tariff Barrier (NTB) Elimination Strategy, with guidance provided for their finalisation.
An update on the status of negotiations and implementation of key agreements, including the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and the outcomes of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12), was also discussed. Notably, officials urged Member States to expedite the ratification of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement ahead of the upcoming MC13 scheduled from February 26th to 29th, 2024, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
The ECOWAS Trade Officials meeting drew participation from senior officials representing the Trade Ministries of Member States and representatives from both the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions. Additionally, delegates from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the AfCFTASecretariat were present, underscoring the significance of collective collaboration towards enhancing trade and investment in the region.
The validation of these regional instruments signifies ECOWAS’ unwavering commitment to fostering economic growth and enhancing trade relations within West Africa while advancing the region’s standing in the global trade arena.