SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report Socialization Workshops Underway Across the Region


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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.

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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


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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


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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


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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

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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:

  1. Understand COVID-19’s impact on SSCBT business operations and profitability
  2. Identify SSCBT awareness of and access to COVID-19 assistance
  3. 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.

NTFC Member Self Assessment

Evaluating CSOs/NGOs to influence integration policies in West Africa

MapDespite 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.

CSO NGO storyCSO NGO story 2Civil 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

Training ETLS CNA GuineaThe 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

20oct20 meeting of ECOWAS CMAA DG pilot meetingThe 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

Training ETLS Website Portal NAC
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

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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.