Harnessing AfCFTA: ECOWAS, TPO Network deliberate practical means to deepen trade

Trade Promotion Organisation

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Trade Promotion Organisation (TPO) Network, has stressed the importance of implementing practical steps to deepen trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area/Agreement (AfcFTA).

It believes that there is a need to enhance trade among ECOWAS member countries, acting as a catalyst for trade across Africa and even on a global scale.

“We should therefore focus on how to position the ECOWAS TPO Network to play a pivotal role in galvanizing our members in exploring and maximally benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area /Agreement (AfCFTA) through various instrumentalities of trade. The Region should form a formidable force to take advantage of this largest single African market with over $500 billion in trade,” President of the Network, Dr. Ezra Yakusak told journalists in Accra at the second annual general meeting.

“We will achieve this through sensitization programs, since knowing why and how you do what you do is the first step. So we talked to our members and decided to put together an advocacy program for exporters in the region. We are working on capacity-building programs for exporters and officers from various trade organizations. We intend to do so, so that they can benefit from the AfCFTA, which is important to us. The TPO network was established to ensure that we take advantage of the AfCFTA, not just in Africa but also in other markets around the world,” he added, saying the TPO will contribute to economic integration, interconnectivity, and inclusive sustainable development.

Dr. Ezra also noted that a key challenge noticed under AfCFTA is supply-side constraints and also the export of primary products as against finished goods. As a result, he stated that the TPO Network is doing everything possible to ensure that members return to their home countries and educate their people on the importance of adding value to every product they export.

“We have come a long way; it’s too late to look back. 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 charged members”.

Action now

The constant mention of price hikes, soaring unemployment, shortages of essential commodities, supply chain disruptions, and depressing statistics churned out daily, according to Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), Dr. Afua Asabea Asare is meant to strengthen their resolve as a team and remind them of the monumental task they have as TPOs to increase trade flows among member countries.

“We do not have the luxury of time to wait for the current overlapping global crises of war and COVID-19, their attendant disequilibrium to simmer down before we take action. The current exposure of our economies to the vagaries of the external environment must serve as a turning point in our trading dynamics.

We must get to a point where value chain actors in the region, through the power of demand and supply, can easily locate each other to strike business deals without the hustle of moving round and round. This network should be the conduit and the platform on which business partnerships and synergies are created and deployed,” she said.

Building resilient MSMEs

According to Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), while countries strive to build resilient economies, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) must be given special attention because building their resilience, especially in these difficult times, is critical to economies.

“Once you build the resilience of firms, you build the resilience of a country’s economy. Because it is firms that make up about 90 percent of economies reflecting on exports and GDP. Building resilience at the firms’ level is very critical for the economies,” she said.

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