Accra, Feb 10, GNA - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states have expressed hope and enthusiasm that a new project to promote trade and marketing information in the region would largely facilitate the integration process. At a meeting in Accra to launch the project, participants were optimistic that MISTOWA, which is a Market Information Systems and Traders Organisations in West Africa, would help increase intra-regional trade and address crosscutting issues that could help improve welfare in the sub-region.
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive of ECOWAS in a speech read for him by Dr S.O. Afolabi, Director of the Community of Computers Centre of ECOWAS, said MISTOWA had come to help the region realise a major difficulty to improve the flow of market information. He said priority products of the project were those for which the sub-region had relative advantages, strengths or potentials. "Cassava, for instance, has been recognized to be a product with immense potential for contributing to economic growth, hence the establishment of the African Cassava Initiative being implemented at regional and national levels," he said.
Dr Chambas said in implementing the MISTOWA project, there was the need to establish a quantitative benchmark of the current situation, keep the system simple and convenient to the end users and ensure stability of the project modules. He said the most direct counterpart of MISTOWA would be the ECOWAS Trade Opportunities Management Systems (SIGOA-TOPS) which was a web-based system designed to provide on-line information on offers and demands of goods, services and tenders in the sub-region. "The financing of the MISTOWA project of 15 million dollars by the United States Agency International Development (USAID) is a clear testimony of the willingness of our partners to direct their efforts and resources towards meeting the development goals of the sub-region." He said for ECOWAS to achieve development efforts, security of the citizenry was paramount. This includes the basic rights of citizen to be governed under the rule of law and respect for democratic principles."Without development, the seeds of strife and conflicts will enjoy conducive environment to geminate and grow," he said.
Mr Ernest Debrah, the Minister of Agriculture, said there was a huge potential for intra-regional trade in agricultural inputs and products, yet this was largely unexploited. The reason is that there was limited access to accurate and timely information on prices, market conditions, and supply and demand conditions. Mr Debrah said Ghana had comparative advantage in the production of quality protein maize, pineapples, cassava, yams and palm oil, hence MISTOWA would in no doubt accelerate the growth of Ghana's agriculture.
Dr Amit Roy, President of International Centre of Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development, official implementers of MISTOWA, said soil fertility decline continued to be a major obstacle to agricultural development and all efforts must marshalled to provide a way out.