Dr Afua Asabea Asare, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority, has urged Trade Promotion Organisations in West Africa to deal head-on with the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
She said the current exposure of the sub-region’s economies to the vagaries of the external environment must serve as a turning point in the trading dynamics in the sub-region and transformations in the lives of the people.
“We do not have the luxury of time to wait for the current overlapping global crisis of war and COVID and the attendant disequilibrium to simmer down before we take action,” Dr Asare said.
“Moreover, we do not have a conclusive grasp or the ability to forecast with certainty when the current headwinds are going to ease for economies, industries and individual companies to be at their productive capacities,” she added.
Dr Asare was addressing the opening session of the second annual general meeting of the ECOWAS Trade Promotion Organisation Network in Accra.
She said organisations should be strengthened in their resolve to deal with the difficulties such as the consistent hikes in prices, soaring unemployment, shortage of essential commodities, and supply chain disruptions by increasing trade flows amongst member countries.
Dr Asare said the Network should be a platform on which business partnerships and synergies are created and deployed and pledged GEPA’s readiness to support the successful implementation of activities.
She called on members to adopt digitalization as one of the means to boost trading across the globe and cited GEPA’s Impact Hub as an example of physical IT space that provides multiple support programmes to exporters.
Governments and other relevant bodies must be ready to support TPOs in the region to prosecute programmes that are regional in nature, she added.
For his part, the President of the Ecowas Trade Promotion Organisation Network, Dr Ezra Yakusak, said the two-day AGM provided a unique opportunity to pursue the goal of economic integration.
He, therefore, urged members to focus on how the network could play a pivotal role in galvanising members to explore and benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement through various instrumentalities of trade.
“We cannot at this point be overwhelmed by challenges. We must set aside our differences and work as brothers and sisters that we are for the collective good of our people,” he said.
“The region should form a formidable force to take advantage of this largest single African market with over $500 billion in trade,” Dr Yakusak added.
Mr Kolawole Sofola, Acting Director Trade Directorate Ecowas Commission, Trade Promotion Organisations were critical to the recovery process required by MSMEs to rebuild bigger and to rebuild better.
He said the current difficult situation, however, should be used as an opportunity to change traditional operating models to do things better, take risks, drive innovation for sustainability and green growth.
Ms. Pamela Coke-Hamilton, the Executive Director International Trade Centre, commended the network for its commitment and the European Union for its financial support for the West Africa Competitiveness programme.
She said the ECOWAS TPO network was essential to build a stronger regional economy, which will provide a springboard for a successful participation in the African continental free trade area.
“There’s no gainsaying that the private sector remains the primary engine for growth in every economy. This is why the role of the ECOWAS TPO network in amplifying the voice of businesses across West Africa cannot be understated,” she said.
She said the success of the programme must be founded on the support made available to SMEs through the development of innovative products and instruments targeted at boosting SME competitiveness, facilitating market access and improving the business environment necessary for the private sector to thrive.
Mr Tim Dolan, Team Leader, Trade and Macroeconomics, Delegation of the European Union commended the commitment of the ECOWAS Commission and the trade promotion network members and the International Trade Centre for implementing major components of West African competitiveness programme.
The European Union funded West Africa competitiveness programme aims to support several selected value chains at national and regional levels to promote structural transformation and better access to regional and international markets while taking into account social and environmental concerns.
For the last four years, the programme has been working towards its overarching goal of improving performance, growth and contribution to the industry, improving regional trade and exports of selected value chains and improving the business climate and national and regional health.