ECOWAS, GIZ Hosts Capacity-building Workshop for Media
The media plays a critical role in creating awareness, informing, and educating the public on cross-border trade initiatives.
From 4 - 8 July, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, in collaboration with GIZ, within the framework of the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program, held a capacity-building workshop in Lagos for selected journalists from The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Other attendees included: Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Acting Trade Director of ECOWAS; Mr. Bernard Tayoh, Head of Component, GIZ - TFWA Program; and Dr Ken Ukaoha, Director-General, West African Institute for Trade and Agriculture Development (WAITAD).
The five-day training was designed to improve media reporting on trade issues, ensuring that journalists and media professionals are more aware of existing regional trade protocols and ECOWAS initiatives. The goal is to help the media effectively monitor implementation of these trade related agreements, hold governments to account, and ensure accuracy in reporting. Over the course of the session, participants were introduced to key concepts from international and regional trade agreements and instruments, including the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), and the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET). The workshop also focused on the gender dimension of trade facilitation and challenges related to implementing the regional trade facilitation agenda.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Sofola highlighted the key role of journalists as custodians of information and advocates for trade reforms in West Africa. He stated that there have been numerous trade developments spearheaded by governments and the ECOWAS Commission, such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), to boost trade opportunities. However, many citizens have limited knowledge of these trade protocols and their benefits. He noted that accurate information sharing via effective journalism could improve private sector participation, maximizing the benefits available from such agreements.
Mr. Tayoh mentioned that the training will enhance media understanding of current trade protocols, processes, and opportunities, enabling journalists to effectively monitor the ELTS within the ECOWAS Region. He added: “With new protocols coming up both in the region and on the continent, including under the AfCFTA, we deem it necessary to build the capacity of CSOs and journalists to understand the implication of these measures.”
At the end of the workshop, participants agreed to collaborate and intensify efforts to raise public awareness of ECOWAS trade facilitation policies.
ECOWAS Commission Holds Retreat for Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee
From 1 - 3 August, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission organized a retreat for the ECOWAS Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee (IDTFC) in Lagos. Participants included representatives of the ECOWAS Directorates and Agencies, including: Trade, Customs Union & Taxation, Transport, Private Sector, Industry, Free Movement of Persons, Research & Statistics, External Relations, Legal Affairs, Communication, and the ECOWAS Gender Development Center. Representatives from GIZ and Afreximbank also attended the retreat.
At the three-day session, participants reviewed guiding draft documents on regional trade, including the Regional Trade & Transport Facilitation Strategy (RTTFS), the Framework for Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), the Common Trade Policy (CTP), and the Trade and Investment Development Strategy.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Kolawole Sofola, the Acting Trade Director of ECOWAS, welcomed the group and highlighted the Commission’s recent efforts to boost implementation of trade initiatives across the region. He noted the adoption of the Supplementary Act on ECOWAS Community Transit and the launch of the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC), which was created to strengthen synergies between the bodies responsible for facilitation at the country level while simplifying exports, imports, and transit procedures.
Speaking on behalf of GIZ, Mr. Kelechi Okoro, Advisor of Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program, reiterated GIZ’s commitment to supporting the Committee and, once adopted, welcomes the Commission’s oversight in the effective implementation of the strategies.
The IDTFC was established in 2017 to spearhead a coordinated approach to the implementation of trade facilitation agreements and programs implemented by various Directorates and Agencies of the ECOWAS Commission.
SIGMAT Functional Training for Ghana, The Gambia, and Nigeria
SIGMAT is an ECOWAS Customs interconnection project that aims to improve regional integration by automating transit procedures in the union. The SIGMAT module allows electronic data exchanges between Customs systems—this facilitates and secures the movement of goods across the various trade corridors in the region by providing digital, accurate information to Customs officers about cargo in transit from one state to another.
The Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program promotes SIGMAT through the efficient transport of goods in selected trade corridors:
- Cote d’ Ivoire Customs is connected (by road and rail) with Burkina Faso’s Customs system
- Burkina Faso Customs is connected with Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, and Niger
- Togo is connected with Burkina Faso and Niger
- Niger is connected with Burkina Faso and Nigeria
- All those countries share the same Customs System, ASYCUDA
In June 2021, during an ECOWAS meeting, Ghana expressed its wishes to be connected with other countries. The first country will be Côte d’Ivoire. Since Ghana’s Customs system is different from ASYCUDA systems, Ghana has needed some IT development in order to make the electronic exchanges possible. A one-week technical meeting was organized in November 2021 in Ghana. The second meeting, a specification meeting, was held in Ghana in April 2022.
A Ghanaian Customs team is expected in Abidjan in the first week of July 2022 to discuss some technical and legal text issues and decide on an implementation chronogram. The connection will be launched by end of 2022.
UEMOA Launches Land Border Performance Measurement Initiative with TFWA Program Support
On May 11, the West African Monetary and Economic Union (also known under the French acronym, UEMOA) Commission, with support from the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program, officially launched the land border performance measurement initiative. This development forms part of the Commission’s broader trade facilitation efforts to improve the performance-monitoring capacities of agencies operating at land borders in the UEMOA zone. Once fully operational, the initiative will support border agencies to detect trade bottlenecks, especially issues faced at border-crossing points that affect the movement of goods, while boosting transparency and efficiency of their operations.
The one-day virtual session was facilitated with the support of TFWA Program experts and gathered a total of 47 stakeholders from seven UEMOA Member States (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Senegal and Togo) representing National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs), Customs, and transport associations. Several government ministries — including Trade, Transport, and Agriculture — also attended the event.
The workshop was formally opened with a welcome statement by UEMOA’s Commissioner in charge of Regional Market and Cooperation, Prof. Filiga Michel Sawadogo and introductory remarks by the UEMOA Director of Trade, Mrs. Rose Kabran.
The workshop aimed to:
- Present the matrix and technical elements to the UEMOA Member State stakeholders;
- Build the capacity of participants in the area of performance measurement;
- Provisionally design a performance measurement matrix; and
- Agree on an action plan to schedule next steps.
During the technical sessions, participants discussed the initiative’s objectives, results, activities, implementation schedule, and modalities. Presentations were delivered with a focus on performance measurement, particularly on the formulation of objectives, the definition of objectively verifiable indicators (such as clearance time, and level of user/client satisfaction), and the identification of sources of verification. This was followed by preliminary design of the UEMOA land border performance measurement matrix in the area of trade facilitation by the participants, who also agreed on a consensus-based action plan to guide the initiative’s efforts over the coming months.
Overall, the workshop was well received and participants commended the efforts of the UEMOA Commission and the TFWA Program in terms of workshop delivery and outcomes. As next steps, participants recommended two virtual workshops to follow up on the design of the performance measurement matrix, which will be complemented by an on-site workshop before the end of the third quarter of 2022.
Factsheet: TFWA Programs Key Achievements
The Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program recently published a factsheet (in English, French, and Portuguese) featuring key highlights since the program’s inception in 2018.
In addition to examples of how the program, with support from regional bodies and other development partners, is making a difference across West Africa, the document highlights the transformative country and corridor-level impacts to trade facilitation measures and reforms.
Key program-supported milestones include:
- Launch of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee to facilitate National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) coordination across West Africa.
- Creation of five NTFC trade and gender sub-committees—in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, and Nigeria—to mainstream gender into national trade agendas.
- ECOWAS Member States’ fulfillment of their World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) obligations. Adherence to the TFA will help reduce the overall cost and time required to trade across the region.
- Launch and operationalization of the System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT), an IT system designed to connect customs systems across the region, enabling efficient sharing and transparent processing of cargo information between countries.
- Support for the strengthening of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures at the country level by introducing and deploying electronic phytosanitary certificates (ePhyto), a paperless solution developed to facilitate safe and efficient trade.
- Several evaluations on small-scale cross-border traders to build evidence on trade and gender in West Africa. The results will help address the principal trade facilitation challenges affecting small-scale women traders along the corridor, such as access to markets and cumbersome customs and border procedures.
Looking forward, the TFWA Program remains committed to supporting partners to deliver inclusive, targeted, and scalable trade facilitation interventions.
TFWA Program Launches New Video on NTFCs in West Africa
Recently, the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program produced a short video that provides a high-level overview of National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs), explaining what they are and why they are an important part of trade facilitation.
In West Africa, trade remains a major source of growth for most countries, however trade transactions are often very complicated because of non-tariff barriers, including burdensome customs procedures, poor infrastructure, and inadequate or unclear trade rules and regulations. The video highlights the role of NTFCs as key multi-stakeholder platforms established to champion trade facilitation measures. By strengthening inter-agency collaboration and coordination, NTFCs help eliminate complexity and duplication of efforts, which significantly reduces time and costs related to trade.
The TFWA program is empowering NTFCs across West Africa to achieve more effective and innovative trade facilitation policy outcomes at the national level, while also contributing to stronger regional integration via platforms like the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee.
GIZ Hosts Strategic Workshop in Senegal
From April 26 to 28, GIZ hosted a team-building and strategy workshop in Saly, Senegal to discuss the strategic goals for the program while also helping the team develop shared vision and understanding. Working under the theme “The Power of Alignment – Managing Quality & Change Successfully”, the event was designed to exchange lessons learned, ranging from technical knowledge to organizational know-how. Specifically, the training set out to accomplish the following objectives:
- Identify effective ways to deliver the program successfully;
- Discuss multiple future scenarios and impacts on program implementation;
- Explore ways to strengthen potential partnerships with internal/external partners and stakeholders;
- Build a strong culture based on international, cross-functional, cross-hierarchical team spirit; and
- Plan next steps.
The workshop commenced with a welcome speech and an introductory overview by the Head of the GIZ component of the TFWA Program, Ms. Barbara Rippel. This was followed by a productive breakout session on individual and group expectations, which stimulated discussions centered on the program’s strengths and weaknesses. Participants were encouraged to share their own personal achievements and even highlighted some program successes, including:
- Improved Member State coordination across ECOWAS;
- The adoption of multiple ECOWAS customs texts;
- The establishment of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC);
- The successful deployment of SIGMAT along the Dakar-Bamako corridor;
- The strengthening of the ETLS and development of the ETLS website; and
- Capacity building activities for customs, tax administrations, and the private sector.
At the end of the workshop, participants worked together to:
- Develop guiding principles and cornerstones for strategies in different future scenarios;
- Define the frame of reference for WATIP II;
- Develop a SWOT and trend analysis, putting into consideration the existing structure, staff, collaborations, and resources; and
- Develop strategies to successfully master the different scenarios, including stretch goals, indicators/measures, and targets for the future.
Regional Trade Facilitation Committee Launches
On February 21, the ECOWAS Commission launched the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC). This new forum—the first of its kind in West Africa—marks a major milestone for trade facilitation in the region. In June 2021, the agreement (Decision C/DEC.1/6/21) to establish and operationalize the RTFC was made at the eighty-sixth regular session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in an effort to enhance trade facilitation within ECOWAS Member States. The Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program supports these efforts and commends ECOWAS on launching this landmark regional forum.
The historic launch was marked with a ceremony in Lomé, Togo. The event was moderated by Mr. Kolawole Sofola, ECOWAS Acting Director of Trade and brought together several key stakeholders, including: H.E Mr. Kodjo Sévon-Tépé Adédzé, Togolese Minister of Trade, Industry, and Local Consumption; Mr. Téi Konzi, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs, and Free Movement of Persons; Mr. Philippe Kokou Tchodie, Commissioner General of the Togolese Revenue Office (OTR); and Ms. Barbara Rippel, Head of the GIZ - TFWA Program.
In his remarks, H.E Mr. Kodjo Sévon-Tépé Adédzé explained that the new committee is designed to strengthen synergies between the bodies responsible for facilitation at the country level. He also urged members of the new RTFC to work toward simplifying exports, imports, and transit procedures within and outside the region. Speaking on behalf of Ms. Rippel, Mr. Kenneth Okoro, reiterated the TFWA Program’s commitment to assist ECOWAS in facilitating the movement of goods in the region. Later, TFWA Program representative Bénédicte Meille delivered a presentation on the role of the NTFCs in implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), bringing one of the program’s key focus areas to the RTFC forum.
Following the official launch, the committee commenced its inaugural meeting, which took place from February 21 to 23. Several recommendations were made during this first meeting, including: mainstreaming peer learning and experience- sharing in the committee’s operations; developing sensitization programs for several ongoing trade facilitation initiatives to ensure relevant stakeholders are informed and positioned to fully enjoy the benefits of these initiatives; and strengthening private sector engagement in the design, implementation, and monitoring of trade-related policies, initiatives, and instruments. Moving forward, the RTFC will serve as a platform to ensure cooperation and coordination between ECOWAS Member States for the harmonized implementation of national, regional, continental, and international trade facilitation reforms.
TFWA Program Hosts Side Event at UN Women CSW66
On March 14, the TFWA Program hosted a side event at the 66th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66). The panel discussion explored issues at the forefront of the trade and gender agenda while showcasing innovative and transformative solutions to build private sector resiliency to market disruptions, with a focus on West African traders.
The event was moderated by Ewokolo Jeme, a gender expert and training coordinator for the GIZ - TFWA Program, who introduced the key panelists: Dr. Barbara Ky, Director of the Gender Centre at UEMOA; Jailson da Luz Costa, Customs IT and Interconnectivity Specialist at GIZ - ECOWAS; Christel Annequin, Transport Facilitation and Logistics Consultant at TFWA Program (World Bank); and Carine Yemitia, Regional Senior Procurement Officer at IFAD / Chairperson of Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) in Côte D’Ivoire. The event was held virtually via ZOOM, and gathered more than 80 participants and stakeholders from across the globe.
During the session, panelists unpacked the pandemic- related challenges facing small-scale cross border traders (SSCBTs) across the region. The vast majority, up to 70 - 80 percent, of Africa’s small-scale traders are female. Women represent a huge portion of the private sector, and were thus particularly impacted by COVID-19, which is disproportionately affecting women and deepening existing inequalities in the region.
Over the course of the event, panelists emphasized the importance of digitalization at the national and regional levels. Digital trade has the potential to improve the efficiency, cost, and transparency of cross-border trade. At the same time, digitalization can help address the limitations faced by women traders. As an example, Mr. Jailson da Luz Costa highlighted ECOWAS’s mission to simplify and automate procedures across the region: “To support traders and reduce delays at the borders, ECOWAS has introduced and adopted the Transit Supplementary Act, an e-tool aimed at facilitating the movement of goods. ”
Dr. Ky added that more investment is required for digitalization to benefit women traders. She highlighted the need for capacity and training that equips women traders to take full advantage of digital tools and platforms. On the customs side, Ms. Carine Yemitia said that customs administrations should continue to embrace digital transformation in order to shape the smart supply chains of the future. Automation of customs procedures is key to simplifying trade, allowing less in-person physical contact, reducing customs clearance time and costs, and enabling safer cross-border trade.
As the conversation continued, the speakers outlined concrete actions that can protect women traders and build their resilience to future business disruptions. For example, Ms. Christel Annequin highlighted efforts by the TFWA Program to simplify small-scale trade through the groupage system, an economical way for traders to bulk their merchandise and send it across borders as groups.
“To support traders and reduce delays at the borders, ECOWAS has introduced and adopted the Transit Supplementary Act, an e-tool aimed at facilitating the movement of goods.”
- Jailson da Luz Costa (GIZ - ECOWAS)
This mechanism not only facilitates safe trade, but it saves traders money and decreases the total number of vehicles on the road each day, helping the environment.
Before the session closed, the panelists highlighted some overarching strategies—such as improving women’s access to trade-related information at the borders—that can elevate women traders and women working in customs administrations. As uncovered during the discussion, this is another important step to addressing the hurdles faced by women in the region.
ECOWAS Hosts Workshop on Mirror Data for Risk Analysis
The TFWA Program recently conducted virtual capacity building workshops on the use of mirror data for the Customs Administrations in four pilot Member States of the Operationalization Project of the Supplementary Act on Regional Customs Cooperation of ECOWAS. These workshops were part of the Operationalization Project of the Additional Act A/SA.6/12/18 of December 22, 2018, relating to Mutual Assistance and Customs Cooperation and in accordance with the Action Plan validated by each pilot Member State.
During the workshops, participants learned key areas of mirror data exchange and risk management, including:
- Method and contribution of the mirror analysis in macroeconomic data on foreign trade;
- Customs risk management and selectivity, with a focus on post-clearance control (an effective means of optimizing customs controls and expediting the clearance of goods); and
- Development and implementation of a mechanism for the exchange and reconciliation of mirror transactional statistical data between border offices of the pilot Member States of the project.
The workshops provided an opportunity to present cases specific to each Member State. These presentations were based on available data collected from international trade statistical databases and the methodology for interpreting and processing statistical discrepancies detected through the analysis of mirror data. Also, the workshops provided an opportunity to discuss arrangements for the exchange of mirror statistical data on foreign trade and transactional information on cross-border trade at the local level (between offices and customs’ posts at the borders) and at the national level, in a systematic way within the framework of the customs cooperation strategy.
As a next step, the project is working to implement the exchange of mirror statistical data at the national level and between border offices of the pilot Member States.
TFWA Program Aims to Create Community of Trust between Traders and Border Officials
The TFWA Program has begun recruitment for a facilitator to develop an innovative behavioral training and dialogue platform that will build small-scale cross-border traders’ (SSBCTs) awareness of trade rules and regulations. At the same time, this platform will facilitate dialogue to build trust and strengthen SSCBT communications with border authorities.
These efforts build on the TFWA Program’s Trader Association Mapping conducted in 2020 and Capacity Building Needs Assessment completed in 2021. The Capacity Building Needs Assessment identified very low trader awareness of rules and regulations as a key need in the region. To meet this need, the TFWA Program will provide SSCBT training focused on both technical (for example, national and regional trade rules and regulations, as well as trader rights and obligations) and behavioral (for example, communications, confidence, persistence and resilience) content.
Additionally, the TFWA Program will foster stronger dialogue with border authorities to catalyze a wider cultural shift— encouraging a move from adversarial to more collaborative relationships. This will include advocating for customs to adopt, as part of their mandate, proactive communications on the evolution of trade rules and regulations, as well as action to support traders’ voluntary compliance.
In February, the TFWA Program began recruiting experienced training facilitators across its nine focal countries. These facilitators will serve as a critical part of the training design and delivery team. Candidates do not need to be cross- border trade experts, but should bring proven experience using participatory methods (such as role playing / community theater / case studies or experience delivering behavioral training to rural participants, especially women, with limited education and/or literacy).
The recruited facilitators will help design the training curriculum and a rollout plan that uses a phased approach, in which the curriculum will be piloted in 2022, then refined and replicated in additional countries.
Selection of the pilot countries is currently underway, and will be based on:
- Existing TFWA Program relationships with in-country Border Authorities;
- Border Authorities’ demonstrated receptiveness to the culture shift envisioned by the TFWA Program;
- The availability of qualified training facilitator candidates in country; and
- Compatibility with the TFWA Program’s existing corridor work plans.
Recruitment for training facilitators is ongoing in all nine countries, and interested candidates should send applications to email@example.com
ECOWAS Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee Meets
On 18 February, the ECOWAS Commission’s Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee met virtually to discuss the following ongoing initiatives:
- Regional Trade and Transport Facilitation Strategy.
- ECOWAS Regional Non-Tariff Barriers Policy and Strategy.
- ECOWAS Regional COVID-19 Response Development (Trade Component).
- Preparation for the Launch and First Meeting of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee.
The directorates represented included: Trade, Free Movement, Transport, Legal, Communication, Industry, and Private Sector. The Committee highlighted the need for capacity-building programs around trade facilitation initiatives to ensure stakeholders are adequately equipped and positioned to efficiently and effectively undertake implementation.
ECOWAS and GIZ Host SIGMAT Mobile Prototype Workshop
The introduction of the ECOWAS Customs Transit Information System (SIGMAT) is a great leap forward for the West African trade community. Once adopted by ECOWAS Member States, the modernized mobile system is set to facilitate the seamless exchange of real-time, electronic/automated cross-border trade data between Customs administrations. Sharing data in real-time should minimize administrative costs to the business community and facilitate quicker and cheaper trade.
ECOWAS, in collaboration with GIZ recently hosted a three-day regional validation workshop in Abidjan to present the prototype of the mobile system to Member States for adoption. Participants included heads of IT and transit procedure experts from the Customs administrations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Togo, as well as representatives of ECOWAS and GIZ.
The event featured a technical session to evaluate the functionalities, features, and requirements of the prototype. With the aim of adoption across the region, the session also encouraged recommendations for improvement. In the end, the workshop validated the prototype system, which allows the project to move to the next phase with trained developers at ECOWAS. Integration, testing, validation, and presentation will commence in early 2022.
ECOWAS - UEMOA Committee Meet on the Management of the ECOWAS Customs Union
From November 8 to 10, the fourth meeting of the joint ECOWAS - UEMOA committee on the management of the ECOWAS Customs Union was held in Ghana with support
from the TFWA Program. Experts from 13 Member States, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (based on the association agreement with ECOWAS), the ECOWAS Commission, and GIZ attended the meetings.
Mr. Benjamin Ayesu-Kwafo, representative of the Ghana Ministry of Finance; Mr. Tei Konzi, the ECOWAS Commissioner of Trade, Customs and Free Movement; and Mrs. Rosemond Ako Asante, representative of GIZ and focal point for the Trade Facilitation West Africa Program opened the meeting. During the two-day session, experts and other key stakeholders reviewed and discussed:
- The status of recommendations made during the third joint ECOWAS-UEMOA committee meeting on the management of the ECOWAS Customs Union; and
- The draft regulation on the Harmonized System (HS) to provide the legal basis for the migration of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) from the 2017 HS to the latest version of the nomenclature.
The HS is a multipurpose international product nomenclature developed and managed by the World Customs Organization under the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. In accordance with the five-year review cycle of the HS nomenclature, the next edition of the HS will enter into force on January 1, 2022.
This review process enables the nomenclature to integrate technological advancements, changes in trade patterns, environmental considerations, and other issues of global concern, thereby ensuring the continued relevance of the HS in a fast-changing world. It is also worth noting that an update will enable the Community to streamline its tariff offer under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
After careful deliberation of the draft regulation, its impacts, and its relevance to the seamless implementation of the CET in the Community, experts from ECOWAS Member States, and subsequently the Directors General of Customs, validated the regulation.
ECOWAS Directors General of Customs Discuss the ECOWAS Community Levy and ECOWAS Customs Union
On November 11, the sixth meeting of the Directors General (DGs) of Customs of ECOWAS Member States took place to discuss the ECOWAS Community Levy and
the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union. Hosted in Ghana, the representatives of the 13 Member States, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (based on
the association agreement with ECOWAS), the ECOWAS Commission, the Office of the Auditor General of ECOWAS Institutions, the President of the Community Parliament, and GIZ attended the meeting.
Opening speeches were delivered by Col. Kwadwo Damoah (Rtd), the Commissioner of Customs of the Republic of Ghana; Ms. Katja Lasseur, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Ghana; Ms. Alima AHMED, ECOWAS Commissioner of Finance; and Mr. Tei Kozi, the ECOWAS Commissioner of Trade, Customs and Free Movement. During the opening remarks, the ECOWAS Commission, represented by Mr.Kozi, emphasized the importance of the meeting and highlighted the pressing issues relating to the finances of the Community and its Customs union. He also thanked the European Union (EU), the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and GIZ for their financial and technical support toward the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union.
During the session, the DGs of Customs and other stakeholders reviewed and examined:
- The status of recommendations made during the fifth meeting of DGs;
- The report of the ECOWAS Community Levy;
- The report of the fourth meeting of the joint ECOWAS - UEMOA Committee for the management of the ECOWAS Customs Union;
- The status of implementation of the interconnected system for the management of goods in transit (SIGMAT); and
- The draft texts on the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union.
Following deliberations on the various reports and draft texts, the DGs validated eight documents aimed at the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union:
- Draft Supplementary Act on ECOWAS Community Levy;
- Draft regulation on the definition of the list of categories of goods contained in the ECOWAS Tariff and Statistical Nomenclature based on 2022 version of the Harmonized System nomenclature;
- Draft Supplementary Act on ECOWAS Community Transit;
- Draft regulation relating to the additional modalities for the application and management of decisions, including advance rulings, relating to the implementation of Community Customs regulations;
- Draft regulation relating to the determination of Community regime for Customs duty reliefs in the ECOWAS region;
- Draft regulation on the procedures for the recognition and certification of the origin of products from ECOWAS Member States;
- Draft Regulation on the determination of the components of ex-factory price and the value of non-originating materials; and
- Draft regulation relating to the modalities for the functioning of the ECOWAS community transit guarantee mechanism.
The validated texts and reports were annexed to the meeting report and submitted to the Ministers’ of Finance for further validation.
ECOWAS Holds Workshop to Strengthen Customs Administrations through Mirror Data Exchange Across Regional Borders
In 2018, ECOWAS Member States (Mss) adopted the Additional Act A/SA.6/12/18 of 22 December 2018, which focuses on mutual assistance and cooperation between the Customs administrations of MSs—covering the collaboration between MSs and the Commission related to Customs matters. To promote and accelerate the implementation of this Additional Act, a Manual of Procedures was reviewed and validated by experts from MSs. In the same vein—and with a firm determination to strengthen cooperation between Customs administrations—the ECOWAS Commission, with funding from the TFWA Program, commissioned a study to operationalize mutual administrative assistance and information exchange, as provided for in the Supplementary Act. The study aims to enable these administrations to combat Customs offenses and transnational organized crime in a concerted and efficient manner while also promoting the liberalization of intra-community trade with the free movement of goods and persons in the area.
To this end, the ECOWAS Commission, in partnership with the TFWA Program, has initiated a pilot experiment in four MSs (Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Niger, and Nigeria). These countries were selected for the operationalization of the “cooperation and exchange of information between Customs administrations” component of the Supplementary Act, supported by its Manual of Procedures. This pilot is already taking place in a gradual manner, in different Customs cooperation environments, in order to draw the lessons needed to prepare for deployment at the regional level.
The implementation of the pilot project addresses relevant areas of the Supplementary Act, including:
- Cooperation and information exchange at the cross - border checkpoint, functional office, and Customs headquarters levels;
- Cross-border trade facilitation; and
- Concerted regional action against fraud and cross-border crime.
In October, the Directors General of the Customs administrations of the four selected MSs held a workshop to validate and confirm their commitment to the operationalization of the Additional Act. Subsequently, a priority action plan was drawn up and validated by each MS for the effective implementation of the strategic assistance activities to be implemented at the national or bilateral levels.
One of the proposed activities is the design, development, and operational implementation of a harmonized and standardized mechanism with its practical modalities for the exchange and reconciliation of transactional mirror statistical data at
the local level between border offices. With mirror statistics, Customs administrations can address statistical discrepancies and improve their risk analysis and fraud detection. Ideally,the recorded export declarations, from Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, should reflect the recorded import declarations from Burkina Faso to Côte d’Ivoire, but may fail to match in principle.
To accomplish its objectives, a bilateral virtual workshop will be held with the two Customs administrations and TFWA technical teams to align the respective proposals and establish a joint and common specification of the mirror statistics mechanism to be developed and implemented as well as the commencement of the operational implementation between the border offices.
TFWA Program Hosts Panel at WTO Public Forum
On September 3, the TFWA Program hosted a high-level panel discussion at the WTO 2021 Public Forum to explore COVID-19’s impact on small-scale traders in West Africa. The session also examined how cross-border trade facilitation and policy reform can foster economic empowerment in the region.
The session was chaired by Maiko Miyake, TFWA Program Manager, who welcomed distinguished panelists, including: Mr. Kola Sofola, Acting Trade Director of ECOWAS; Ms. Rose Tiemoko, Trade Director of UEMOA; Mr. Ken Ukaoha, President of the National Association of Nigerian Traders; and Ms. Khady Fall Tall, President of the West Africa Women’s Association.
During the session, Mr. Kola Sofola highlighted the immediate, disruptive impact COVID-19 had on supply chains. Containment measures and border closures caused adverse effects on financial markets, production, consumption, and investor confidence. He stated: “Findings from a recent study conducted through the TFWA Program reveal that, as a result of border closures and mobility restrictions, trade revenues decreased significantly due to a collapse in demand.” The study found that 42% of surveyed traders experienced decreased revenues by more than 50%. These decreases were most acutely felt by traders in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Niger.
Later in the discussion, the panelists highlighted the severe consequences of the pandemic on small-scale women traders. The speakers emphasized the need for governments to make concerted efforts to address the issues that affect their business operations—including corruption and harassment—by providing support services and guidance to ease movement across borders.
Dr. Ken Ukaoha added that the border closures slowed down production, increased the costs of goods and transport, and led to a surge in e-commerce. He mentioned that most traders struggled to adjust to this new way of working due to historic challenges, such as poor digital skills and costly broadband services. Despite the barriers, he acknowledged e-commerce’s potential as a strategic part of post-COVID trade facilitation in West Africa. After highlighting the benefits of e-commerce to bolster trade, he called on governments to improve digital and trade infrastructure and to build digital capacity for women traders.
The discussion highlighted these and other potential tactics to improve trade and trade facilitation in the region. By highlighting challenges and possible solutions to the issues limiting West African trade, The TFWA Program hopes to create awareness and, ultimately, action. The TFWA Program will continue engaging global stakeholders and shining a light on these important issues.
SIGMAT-RAIL Launches Interconnection Between Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso
The TFWA Program successfully implemented the rail element of the System for the Management of Goods in Transit, called SIGMAT, in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. SIGMAT is designed to connect customs systems, enabling efficient sharing and processing of cargo information between countries. Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire are the latest two nations to benefit from this technological improvement.
SIGMAT rail was officially launched in Abidjan on June 22, 2021, with the general managers of Customs for Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Niger in attendance. The Ivorian Minister of Budget chaired the ceremony, during which representatives from Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire signed the official agreement.
To facilitate and encourage this reform, the TFWA Program carried out several activities:
- Recruited UNCTAD (technical partner) for development of the platform
- Provided concrete assistance to organize technical meetings between WCO, UNCTAD, SITARAIL, and customs agencies of both countries; these meetings led to the creation of a work plan, legal regulatory framework, user’s guide, and testing sessions.
SIGMAT’s rollout marks a major milestone for both countries, and for the region at large. This reform will greatly impact trade, reducing the time required for merchandise to travel through the Abidjan-Ouagadougou corridor while also supporting an enabling business environment. This rail connection complements the SIGMAT road initiative, implemented by a previous IFC trade project (IFTWA, funded by the European Union and World Bank lending project, PAMOSET).
SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report Socialization Workshops Hosted in Ghana and Nigeria
As a continuation of the regional SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report Socialization workshop series, the TFWA Program conducted workshops in Ghana and Nigeria. The workshops presented findings of the SSCBT survey and gender assessment report— two important and significant research pieces for the West African trade space. The workshops also provided an opportunity to discuss the TFWA Maturity Model, a tool designed to assess the maturity level of NTFCs and inform fit-for-purpose and results-based NTFC action plans, and to encourage effective progress monitoring in response to trade facilitation-related international and continental engagements in each country.
The two-day session took place from July 15 to 16 and was held virtually. Various stakeholders representing Customs, the Standards Organization, Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and other border agencies attended the workshops. Several government ministries—including Trade, Agriculture, Womens’ Affairs, and Finance—state trade facilitation committees, and associations representing SMEs, shippers, and women also attended.
Following the review of findings and report recommendations, the Nigerian NTFC called on the TFWA Program to support the implementation of recommended actions in their work. Specifically, the NTFC called for including gender mainstreaming in trade policy, improving access to finance for traders, implementing interventions to reduce harassment at the border, and awareness-building of SSCBT rights and benefits. Additionally, the NTFC requested capacity building support for the newly established Nigerian state trade facilitation committees (with reporting lines to the NTFC and state governors) as well as capacity strengthening sessions in risk management and other areas. The event was also well received by participants in Ghana.
Implementing e-Phyto in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire
After a successful risk management diagnostic mission in March 2020, a diagnostic report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and detailed action plan were developed and approved by the government of Côte d’Ivoire. The action plan was prepared with a focus on risk management for SPS and e-Phyto solutions to streamline trade.
Following an official request for support from the government of Côte d’Ivoire, the TFWA team began providing technical assistance. The official kickoff meeting took place February 24 between the Ministry of Agriculture, the TFWA Program, and GUCE (Côte d’Ivoire’s single window platform). Following the kickoff, several meetings were organized with stakeholders (GUCE-CI, Ministry of Agriculture, and Customs) to verify the procedures and each stakeholder’s level of involvement. Additionally, it was important to check whether each current procedure could be dematerialized. Stakeholders were asked to fill in the description of the procedures, difficulties, turnaround times, and costs (if any).
What is the e-Phyto solution?
Phytosanitary certificates are one of many required trade documents for the movement of agricultural commodities. In 2016, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat worked with other international development agencies—including the World Bank Group—to develop an international solution for advancing a transition from paper to electronic certificates. The system is referred to as the e-Phyto Solution and it consists of three components:
- A standardized message protocol to define and harmonize phytosanitary certificates in an electronic format. The electronic phytosanitary certificate is referred to as the “e-Phyto”;
- A “hub” or centralized exchange server that allows countries to connect online to exchange of e-Phytos; and
- A Generic e-Phyto National System (GeNS) or cloud-based system that allows countries without the technical infrastructure to create, send, and receive e-Phytos.
A webinar was organized on August 25 to help the Ministry of Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire learn the experiences of other countries that have successfully implemented the e-Phytos. The webinar brought together experts from the IPPC Secretariat, representatives of regulatory agencies in Kenya and Uganda—who spoke about their experiences implementing e-Phyto—and representatives of the grain, seed, and agricultural sectors to provide perspective.
The implementation of e-Phytos by both developing and developed countries significantly improves the security, efficiency, transparency, and predictability of agricultural trade across borders. Effective and sustainable e-Phyto implementation requires in-country equipment, legislation to use electronic certificates, strategies for the governance of technical and operating resources, the establishment of operating structures, the development of cost-recovery mechanisms, and a long-term commitment to the ongoing maintenance of infrastructure.
National Monitoring Committee for the Improvement of the Competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako Corridor Meets
The third meeting of the National Monitoring Committee for the Improvement of the Competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako Corridor took place on August 27, 2021. The meeting, chaired by the Head of the Technical Unit for Business Climate Reforms (CTRCA), Mr. Soumaguel Maiga, aimed to:
- Validate the terms of reference relating to the training of stakeholders on management, safety, and good practices in the area of transportation; and
- Delineate the implementation status of the National Action Plan.
As discussed in the meeting, two of the six planned activities from the National Action Plan have been implemented, while three others are in progress. Of these, the planned activity relating to the registration and processing of complaints on the Dakar-Bamako corridor is currently being prepared.
After this brief presentation, attendee comments and suggestions focused on the following points:
- Setting up a monitoring system to improve the implementation of tasks by the entities responsible for the activities;
- Continuing communication activities related to the dissemination of the recently developed compendium and driver's guide approved by the committee;
- Increasing the pace of activity implementation; and
- Carrying out the monitoring and processing of complaints from users of the Dakar-Bamako corridor.
Despite some institutional challenges and the pandemic, the president reiterated the willingness of his organization and that of the committee to achieve the objectives and significantly improve the competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako corridor. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the road drivers' union and the Conseil Malien des Transporteurs Routiers (CMTR), who discussed the incident between Senegalese and Malian transporters that led to the interruption of inter-state road traffic between Dakar and Bamako on 15 August 2021 in Kaolack. They ensured that the traffic will resume soon with the involvement of the highest authorities of both countries.
SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report Socialization Workshops Underway Across the Region
In April and May 2021, the TFWA Program hosted a series of workshops to share results from the program’s small-scale cross-border trade (SSCBT) survey with key stakeholders in the region. The TFWA team also used the opportunity to introduce the program’s Gender Assessment Report, a recent publication unpacking gender’s critical role in trade. The SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report represent two important and significant research pieces for the West African trade space.
Workshops took place in six key West African markets (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali and Togo), with more sessions planned over the coming months. Two-day physical workshops were held in several countries alongside virtual, remote-friendly video conferencing to encourage wider participation. A variety of stakeholders—from ministers of trade, to ministers of gender, to delegates from the EU, the ECOWAS Commission, the UEMOA Commission, and several traders associations—attended the sessions, provided insightful contributions, and endorsed the TFWA Program’s activities.
During the sessions, the TFWA Program presented in-depth country-specific data and extensive diagnostics on SSCBT and gender. In addition to presenting results from the SSCBT survey and gender assessment, the workshops provided an opportunity for the NTFCs to share results of their self-assessments and to discuss their priority activities to improve committee efficiency. Importantly, the workshops not only provided an engagement space for TFWA stakeholders, but also renewed partnerships and re-invigorated stakeholder commitments to improve inclusive trade facilitation in West Africa.
ECOWAS Meetings Strengthen Regional Trade Cooperation
In April and May, the Directorate of Customs and Taxation of the ECOWAS Commission, with the support of the TFWA Program, organized various meetings of the Working Group on the ECOWAS Certificate of Origin Dematerialization Pilot Project. The meetings hosted experts from ECOWAS Member States as well as the World Customs Organization to review the state of progress on the functional and technical specifications of the electronic certificate of origin (CO) architecture based on data collected from Member States. The Member States then drafted a 12-month action plan and formulated recommendations.
In the meeting on the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT), Member States reviewed the status of SIGMAT implementation at the national, bilateral, and multilateral levels. The report shows that Benin, Burkina, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Togo have more or less implemented SIGMAT either at the national or bilateral levels. Some member states, particularly Ghana and Guinea, have committed to implement it by December 2021. However, other states, including Gambia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, have not given any target date. The experts also continued their review of the draft Supplementary Act on SIGMAT.
In the third regional meeting, the Commission presented the innovations introduced in the ECOWAS community transit guarantee mechanism, including community coverage of the guarantee (valid from the office of departure to the office of destination), the financial solvency of the guarantor and his joint liability, the introduction of the comprehensive guarantee carried out using electronic digital means, and an automated guarantee management system.
The Working Group on the Transit Procedures Manual met to conduct preparatory work that would define the functionalities of SIGMAT and all the procedures characteristic of community transit. For this purpose, the experts worked in sub-groups on topics such as formalities at departure, transit, en route, and destination.
These meetings showed that the pilot experience of CO automation is very advanced, but the legal framework still needs to be implemented to secure and formalize it by settling issues related to the electronic or digital signature and the validity of the electronic certificate. Moreover, significant progress has been made in the implementation of the legal framework regulating community transit, notably SIGMAT, with the endorsement of draft texts by experts from the Member States. However, there are still technical and technological issues to be addressed, especially assistance to States to upgrade their IT infrastructures.
ECOWAS Commission Partners with Other Development Partners to Build Capacity with Women and SMEs
The TFWA Program, through the Directorate of Trade of the ECOWAS Commission, collaborated with United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), International Trade Centre (ITC), Afrexim Bank, United Nation Commission for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the African Union Commission to conduct a series of capacity building trainings. The trainings aimed to enhance the capacity of women and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to trade within the Trade facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The series of trainings—which started by employing a train-the-trainer model—took place in Sierra Leone on April 7-9 for women enterprises from all ECOWAS Member States (MSs), on 12-14 April in Ghana for SMEs in Anglophone MSs, and on 20-22 April in Côte d’Ivoire for SMEs from Francophone and Lusophone MSs.
In total, 42 MS representatives attended the event in Sierra Leone. The delegates included: HE Finda Koroma, the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission; Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy, Minister of Trade and industry; Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai, the UNDP Resident Representative, who represented Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, the Assistant Secretary General and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa; and
Mr. Christopher Forster, President of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce (SLCC). In Ghana, apart from the 20 participating dignitaries in attendance, other notable delegates included: the UNDP Resident Representative for Ghana, Ms Silke Hollander; the Chief of Staff at the AfCFTA Secretariat, Mr. Silver Ojakol; and Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Ag. Director of Trade of the ECOWAS Commission. In Côte d’Ivoire, 20 dignitaries participated in the meeting. Overall, the capacity building program was intended to highlight the links between the TFA articles and opportunities for ECOWAS traders within the AfCFTA. The program also contributed to an understanding of strategies/approaches to source inputs and export goods and services within the AfCFTA. Additionally, the program encouraged use of the AfCFTA’s operational tools, including the African Trade Observatory and the Non- Tariff Barriers Reporting System.
TFWA Program Hosts Panel on Trade and Gender at UN Women CSW65
The TFWA Program took part in UN Women’s 65th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) by hosting a panel discussion on cross-border women traders. Taking place on March 18, the event gave panelists an opportunity to explore how to prioritize women traders during post-COVID economic recoveries. Despite women’s active roles as economic players, women traders in West Africa struggle to retain equal footing in their economies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated many of these challenges.
The event welcomed distinguished speakers including Dr. Bolanle Adetoun (Director, ECOWAS Gender Development Centre), Alejandro Alvarez de la Campa (Manager, IFC), Naa Densua Aryeetey (Senior Manager, Ghana Shippers’ Authority), Ewokolo Jeme (Gender Expert and Training Coordinator, GIZ/TFWA), and Dr. Barbara Ky (Director, UEMOA Gender Department), and was moderated by Maiko Miyake (TFWA Program Manager).
Beyond being an admirable objective, gender equality was described by most panelists as an economic necessity. Panelists highlighted key gender gap statistics and showcased best practices for improving trade conditions for women. The speakers also explored how to mainstream gender into trade policies, strategies, and programs, recognizing the importance of a new generation of trade interventions, such as the TFWA Program, which emphasizes gender, women traders as key project beneficiaries, and targeted interventions that make it easier, cheaper, and faster for women to trade across borders. Panelists delved into their own institutions’ gender mainstreaming efforts to address gender inequality in trade and trade facilitation, providing great insights and interesting lessons learned for the audience.
All speakers emphasized the need to increase means for collecting sex-disaggregated trade data to better quantify and identify gender gaps. UEMOA’s Dr. Barbara Ky stated: “when trade policies are inclusive, they support equality which leads to positive economic growth and poverty reduction.” Additionally, the panelists noted that—not surprisingly—women traders were among those hit hardest by the pandemic, as border closures and mobility restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 also resulted in a dramatic collapse of demand for goods and reduced opportunities to access customers and markets. In this sense, the panel acknowledged the important role that initiatives such as the TFWA Program can play in driving post-COVID-19 recovery, both by supporting relief measures and also by encouraging innovative trade solutions.
All panelists concluded that women’s economic participation remains critical to a resilient and sustainable recovery from the pandemic, calling for increased collaboration, more consultations with women traders, and further specialization in gender analyses to sustainably and effectively put women first.
TFWA Program launches two new videos
As more and more activities take place across the sub-region, two videos were produced to expand awareness and increase TFWA Program visibility with key stakeholders and the wider public. The first video offers a high-level overview of the program and its component. The second video highlights results from key data gathered in the TFWA Program’s 2019 survey of small-scale cross-border traders (SSCBTs) along project corridors. Click below to watch the videos and learn more about our work.
Analyzing COVID-19’s impact on small-scale cross-border traders
In September, the TFWA Program undertook a field survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on small scale cross-border traders (SSCBTs). The survey focused on SSCBT commercial activity along the TFWA Program’s six priority corridors and aimed to:
- Understand COVID-19’s impact on SSCBT business operations and profitability
- Identify SSCBT awareness of and access to COVID-19 assistance
- Understand key decision factors that would impact SSCBT adoption of potential TFWA COVID-19 assistance measures
Quantitative data from field surveys with 1,391 traders has been analyzed to provide initial insights on the impact to business, revealing about 50 percent of traders were no longer able to pay their suppliers—41.5 percent of which is due to lack of funds and 8.5 percent of which is due to disruptions in normal payment channels. It also showed that despite SSCBTs generally being eligible for COVID-19-related cash transfers, these transfers did not successfully reach them. Further, some SSCBT were not aware that this assistance was available. Another finding revealed that the largest transportation challenge affecting traders since COVID-19 has been the increased cost of transport, with women hit harder across all transport challenges cited, leaving many to turn to pooling as a key coping mechanism.
Qualitative data from 72 focus group discussions with traders and transporters will be analyzed in the coming months. Based on the comprehensive analysis, the TFWA Program will design and pilot intervention(s) to address specific challenges faced by small-scale cross border traders in selected countries.
NTFCs undergo gender capacity needs assessment
As part of the TFWA Program’s efforts to mainstream gender across all project components, a gender capacity needs assessment was conducted for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) in nine ECOWAS countries. In fact, despite the critical role of women in trade, NTFCs in the region are largely gender-blind in their operations. With this in mind, the World Bank contracted A2F Consulting to assess the gender capacity of NTFCs while striving to integrate gender into trade-related processes and policies, ensuring trade facilitation contributes to inclusive growth.
A multi-tier capacity assessment was carried out to understand gender capacity needs, both at the individual and organizational levels. Key informant interviews were conducted with six to 10 key stakeholders in each country, including with NTFC leadership and relevant members. Additionally, a rapid assessment of NTFC members’ level of gender awareness in each country was conducted through a digital survey of between three and 14 NTFC members per market (representing between 26 percent to 65 percent of total membership).
Results revealed that surveyed NTFC members have low levels of awareness of the gender and trade nexus and lack operational know-how to integrate gender. Across the studied countries, respondents lacked an understanding of gender issues, particularly as they relate to trade. NTFCs have expressed interest in integrating gender into their day-to-day operations and policymaking activities; however, they do not know where to start. Additionally, the NTFCs are at a nascent stage of development and typically do not have the level of institutionalization, operational platforms, or resources to support true gender mainstreaming. Thus, capacity building needs to be framed within the operational guidance necessary to build organizational effectiveness, which can be achieved through the development of a gender-sensitive NTFC operational toolkit.
Evaluating CSOs/NGOs to influence integration policies in West Africa
Despite the COVID 19 crisis, which sparked border closures and numerous restrictions across the region, many activities planned under TFWA Program Component 3.3—which focuses on strengthening civil society’s ability to advocate for and influence trade facilitation—were completed. A study of NGOs / CSOs and associations active in West African trade was carried out along the six corridors covered by the project. The mapping aimed to identify NGOs / CSOs working in the trade and trade-related space, characterizing their institutional profiles, their fields of activity, their geographical locations, their modes of organization and governance, and their strengths and weaknesses.
ENDA-CACID’s presence in each of the nine countries surveyed—using focal points and partner organizations to minimize the pandemic’s impact—yielded very satisfactory results. In total, the mapping reached 576 organizations, including 402 associations and individual NGOs and 176 umbrella organizations. In addition to showing the sector’s diversity, the study highlighted the strong presence of women in CSO decision-making structures in the region. In fact, 35 percent of decision-making body members (members of executive boards or boards of directors) are women. Additionally, 40 percent of the mapped organizations were headed by women. Even though a significant portion of the organizations do not directly perform regional and international activity, 60 percent were connected to networks or federations working at the regional and/or international level. This gives the organizations an opportunity to bring concerns back to the regional, national, or international level while also receiving information from the wider community. This connectivity also provides the potential to participate in advocacy campaigns and influence national and regional policies.
Civil society brings significant added value to the TFWA Program. West African NGOs / CSOs have experience monitoring regional ECOWAS policies related to trade and the free movement of people and goods. These organizations also have experience implementing agricultural policy and, more recently, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). For a long time, regional policies were exclusively devised, developed, and conducted by official national and regional structures, without the participation of outside actors. Today, this approach is changing. Many stakeholders recognize that NGO / CSO participation is a condition for sustainability, ownership, and success. To maximize this relationship, the TFWA Program will continue working with civil society. As a next step, the mapping will be extended to include an assessment of NGO / CSO training needs as well as workshops focused on trade facilitation advocacy.
Safeguarding SPS for food security and greater competitiveness
Climate change and food insecurity are two major global threats. Though challenging, these threats have actually birthed opportunities for landlocked countries like Burkina Faso. In the 1980s, after observing coastal neighbors like Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire producing bananas without irrigation, Burkina Faso adopted a series of new irrigation techniques to gain competitiveness and grow their local market. In this banana plantation rush, some cooperatives operated negligently, disregarding sanitary and phystosanitary measures (SPS) such as the quarantine stage required for importing vegetables and vegetable products between Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Ignoring SPS led to the importation of a banana disease called “Black Sigatoka”, which ultimately created a 50 percent shortfall in production and lasting problems for the banana industry.
TFWA Program support for Burkina Faso’s SPS requirements
The World Trade Organization regulates SPS assessments and controls at both the national and international levels. Respecting SPS requirements before introducing agricultural or animal produce remains a critical element to guaranteeing the safe importation and exportation of goods to or from any country. In an effort to improve its SPS assessment, Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Agriculture requested TFWA Program collaboration toward improving SPS adherence across different trade corridors. This would enable the country to limit the propagation of pests and diseases while also guaranteeing the safety of foods, agricultural, and animal products.
Following the Ministry of Agriculture’s request, the TFWA Program conducted a gap analysis and built a work plan with core activities focused on raising awareness of SPS’s critical role and utility. Among other activities, the program will closely liaise with a variety of stakeholders at the border in order to increase their understanding of SPS and its benefits. The TFWA Program will also strengthen plant protection operators’ capacity by organizing national consultations on accepted SPS risk assessment procedures.
Digitizing to increase SPS efficiency
In most TFWA Program countries, the elaboration, issuance, and transmission of phytosanitary certificates for export is still a manual process, in paper form. This hampers the flow of agricultural and animal produce. Electronic phytosanitary certificates (E-Phyto) on exports can be used more quickly, as soon as they are accepted by the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) of the importing country. This shift to electronic certificates with the International Plant Protections’ Convention’s (IPPC) E-Phyto solution would significantly reduce customs clearance times, associated costs, and the risk of forgery. It would also provide more accessible phytosanitary data for risk management and control agencies, even prior to the arrival of goods, including airfreight transportation.
Pushing digitization and improving awareness around the purpose of SPS measures—demonstrating how SPS controls provide more benefits than constraints—ultimately has the potential to improve trade facilitation and food security, which is needed in corridor-dependent countries.
Virtual workshops focus on private sector ETLS training
The TFWA Program supported the Directorate of Customs Union and Taxation (DCUT) of the ECOWAS Commission to host a virtual workshop for the private sector of French and English-speaking ECOWAS Member States focused on the use of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) website. The workshops took place in October and November of 2020, gathering a combined total of 247 participants, including representatives from the private sector and the media. These workshops aimed to inform and familiarize key ECOWAS Member State stakeholders with the ETLS website, a regional tool aimed at promoting the free movement of goods across West Africa.
As a result of the workshops, it is expected that ETLS will have greater awareness within the business community and media, which the program hopes will ultimately increase business opportunities emerging from ETLS-approved products. TFWA will continue organizing trainings and information sessions in partnership with Directorates of the ECOWAS Commission to increase the capacity of its members and optimize regional trade facilitation.
Working together to implement a key regional tool for mutual assistance and customs cooperation – the launch of the ECOWAS Supplementary Act on Mutual Assistance and Cooperation between Customs (MACC) pilot
The ECOWAS Commission called on the TFWA Program team to support its efforts to build a consensus driven Supplementary Act (adopted in December 2018) to guide and enable the fluid flow of information and related cooperation activities between customs administrations and the ECOWAS Commission through a Mutual Assistance and Customs Cooperation Agreement (MACC). When ECOWAS needed to see a more active implementation of the MACC, it requested that the co-implementers of the TFWA Program develop a plan for piloting the operationalization of this customs cooperation and enforcement instrument. In a very short period, a modality for bringing the regional instrument—from signing ceremony to operational reality by ECOWAS Member States—was established. The ECOWAS MACC Working Group worked diligently over the summer to design a comprehensive strategy and workplan for piloting the ECOWAS MACC.
On October 22, 2020, customs directors general or alternates in the four selected pilot countries—Niger, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso—gave unanimous support for the ECOWAS initiative and expressed their appreciation to the TFWA Program. An aide memoire from the meeting was circulated and focal points will be identified from each country’s administration to work with the MACC technical committee to deliver the agreed action plan. This is a great start and will be an excellent forum to expand the subject matter to broader risk management and compliance matters in the future. For now, the excellent collaboration between the TFWA Program co-implementers and ECOWAS will need to expand to the four pilot countries to ensure the initiative’s success.
Improving cross-border information sharing, including technological tools, is not only part of the ECOWAS vision for a more closely integrated region, but is also consistent with recommendations from the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Once the Supplementary Act is piloted along these distinct corridors, it will facilitate operational practicalities for other ECOWAS Member States.
Workshop trains National Approvals Committees on the ETLS website and portal
The TFWA Program supported the Directorate of Customs Union and Taxation (DCUT) of the ECOWAS Commission to organize a virtual training workshop for members of National Approvals Committees (NACs) of ECOWAS Member States. The workshop, hosted in October, focused on the use of the website and portal of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS). In total, 162 NAC members—ranging from representatives of Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Regional Integration, Ministry of Finance, Customs Directorate, Chamber of Commerce, and National Export Promotion Body—attended the workshop.
The training, which was requested by the ECOWAS Commission and was well received by the NAC members, aimed to sensitize and re-introduce members to the operational mechanism of the ETLS Scheme while also tactically addressing frequently identified challenges and difficulties encountered by the NAC in the approval of enterprises and products. The training is expected to enable NAC focal points to operationalize the ETLS and significantly reduce delays for approval. As a result of the workshop, the TFWA Program also hopes to increase the number of applications for approval to the scheme from all ECOWAS Member States. With this workshop, TFWA reaffirmed its aim of improving the capacity of NAC members for the effective implementation of the ETLS Scheme and enhancing business opportunities emerging from the ETLS website and portal.
Small-Scale Cross-border Trade Survey Explores Gender Barriers in West Africa
To expand the base of evidence needed to design well-informed program activities, the TFWA Program commissioned a field survey on small-scale, cross-border traders (SSCBTs), including women traders, along the program’s six priority corridors.
The survey—which called on interviews with traders, officials, and border intermediaries—generated a large base of sex-disaggregated quantitative evidence on SSCBT patterns, dynamics, and related gender ramifications. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions with traders’ associations, local authorities, and financial institutions provided valuable qualitative information on the topic. The survey also provided an assessment of existing border and market infrastructure, and data on how its users perceive it.
In West Africa, the role of small-scale women traders is often underestimated—trade policies and interventions rarely encompass measures addressing the challenges women face.
Poor, gender-neutral data on SSCBTs prevented proper diagnosis of the best ways to promote inclusive regional trade facilitation. The TFWA Program tries to fill this gap, starting by generating reliable evidence.
The survey shed light on the space, complementing and corroborating previous assumptions and hypotheses on SSCBTs and gender in West Africa. The TFWA Program synthesized the survey results into a one-page infographic, which provides a detailed overview of the SSCBT survey findings.