Inter-governmental organisations and private sector actors from West Africa began discussions on Wednesday to improve the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in the sub-region.
These discussions were held on May 26-27 during a regional virtual forum for West Africa co-organised by the Sub-Regional Office for West Africa of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).
This two-day meeting formed part of the implementation of the AfCFTA, which entered its operationalisation phase on January 1, 2021, thus laying the foundations for a process of strengthening intra-African trade.
Its main objective is to strengthen the preparedness and the involvement in the implementation of the AfCFTA of sub-regional actors, in particular the Regional Economic Communities, Intergovernmental Organisations and sub-regional private sector platforms.
Madam Ngone Diop, the Director of the ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, said, “At the ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, our quest is to build synergies among the components of our core mandates of harnessing the demographic dividend and achieving regional integration and the transformational development of West African countries.”
She added, “Over the next 2 days, our deliberations will certainly feature the ongoing lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that has depressed economic activities around the world, including in West Africa and other sub-regions of Africa."
“In the context of our sub-region, real GDP growth for West Africa slumped to 0.7 percent in 2020, from 3.5 percent in 2019, with the brunt of the negative effects felt mostly by Cabo Verde, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Nigeria.
This has implications for the role of the private sector as a viable driver of the operationalisation of the AfCFTA agreement, in addition to national governments and IGOs,” said the Director of -the ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Tei Konzi, said, “The role of private sector actors is crucial for trade.”
The ECOWAS Commissioner added that his organisation “attaches particular importance to the harmonious implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area for the benefit of ECOWAS Member States.”
The UEMOA Commissioner in charge of the Department of Regional Markets, Trade, Competition and Cooperation, Professor Filiga Michel Sawadogo, said, “It is not too much to develop sub-regional strategies to address certain issues of common interest and to support our Member States.”
“The AfCFTA is therefore a real opportunity for a paradigm shift in order to consolidate achievements and accelerate the development of regional value chains,” he added.
This Forum saw the participation of West African intergovernmental organisations together with private sector platforms and actors, in particular the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), the WAEMU Regional Consular Chamber (RCC/WAEMU), the Federation of West African Employers' Organisations (FOPAO), the West African Women's Association (AFAO-WAWA), the Young Entrepreneurs’ Association of West Africa, the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), ECOBANK, the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) and regional partners.