Abuja - Nigeria — West Africa has set October 2013 as the deadline for the finalization of the region's Aid for Trade strategy which will define its trade related development priorities in order to ensure that trade is better utilized for stimulating the region's economic development.
The deadline was agreed as part of a road map during a three day meeting of the trade experts of ECOWAS Member States which ended on 23rd May 2013 which discussed the Trade for Aid (TfA) initiative, the formulation of the regions strategy, the practical dimensions of the initiative as well as regional integration and trade.
The policy is expected to be guided by a vision, inclusive, consistent with existing policy and strategic documents and accompanied by a gradualist and flexible communication strategy.
The road map envisages a five step process prior to the finalization of the strategy beginning at the end of May with the finalization of a study, the circulation of the draft strategy and action plan followed with consultations even during the 4th Global Review meeting in Geneva between July and September 2013.
The two-stage approach to the formulation of the ECOWAS AfT strategy began with the development of an Approach paper in May 2012.
The Aid for Trade (AfT) initiative began in the framework of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks and seeks to help developing countries, in particular the least developed, to build the trade capacity and the infrastructure needed to harness the benefits of trade.
In 2009, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), AfT flows to sub-Saharan Africa increased by almost 40% to reach $13 billion and Africa received the largest share among the different regions. In 2010, the top recipient's in West Africa were Ghana, Nigeria and Mail. In 2011, over 80% of the priorities identified by ECOWAS member States were in economic infrastructure and capacity building with the top contributors being mainly Japan, USA, World Bank, Germany, EU and African Development Bank (AfDB).
Specifically, the meeting considered the technical background paper on the ECOWAS Aid for Trade strategy and shared West African experiences in the implementation of trade-related programmes in Infrastructure, Agriculture and the Free Movement of Goods and Persons.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Task Force has specified the following six categories for AfT: such as Economic Infrastructure to link domestic and global markets; investing in productive sectors to diversity exports, helping with the costs associated with tariff reduction, trade policy and regulations and trade development.
At the opening of the meeting, the Acting Director of the Directorate of Trade, Dr. Gbenga Obideyi, who represented the Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Mines, Industry and Free Movement, highlighted the benefit of an AfT strategy as it would help the region maximize the opportunities of the AfT initiative by addressing harmonization, coordination and coherency of AfT delivery and implementation
In the opening presentation, Mr. Kola Sofola, the AfT coordinator at the ECOWAS Commission, gave an overview of the AfT in West Africa, citing key meetings such as the three WTO review meetings held in Geneva in 2007, 2009, 2011, as well as the ECOWAS Aid for Trade review meeting held in Abuja in 2010.
There were also presentations on the Community Development Programme (CDP), Infrastructure, Agriculture and Free Movement of Persons.
The next WTO Global Aid for Trade review meeting, themed “Connecting to Value Chain”, is scheduled for 8 - 10 July 2013 in Geneva.
Also in attendance were representatives of the UN Economic Commissioner for Africa (UNECA), European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), International Organisation of Francophonie (IOF), SAANA Consulting, GIZ, the German technical cooperation agency and the European Union.