Geneva — Gambia's Vice President and Minister for Women's Affairs, Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, says trade has been a strategic tool for reducing poverty and has delivered incredible gains for the world economy, but it needs to be more fully optimized.
She was speaking at a June 14 meeting of representatives from 42 least-developed countries (LDCs) who met at the first Global Forum on Inclusive Trade that took place at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.
At the meeting, four African nations – Gambia, the Central African Republic, Malawi and Uganda – issued a call for action to leverage trade to fight poverty, "recognizing that trade is an engine for inclusive and sustainable economic growth".
They added: "As partners with the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), we commit to taking concrete steps and joint actions to use trade to sustain policy environments, build productive capacity, achieve sustainability of results, consolidate growth, reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity."
The EIF is a multilateral partnership dedicated to assisting LDCs to use trade as an engine for growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction.
In her speech to the forum, Jallow-Tambajang said developing countries are yet to optimize fully the potential benefits from globalization.
"Thus, we need to strengthen our global partnership and linkages to help address the trade capacities and development needs of LDCs to support their integration into the global economy," she said. "Trade action for LDCs is needed now, amid global uncertainties, a growing trade gap and changes in what is traded and how."
The way for developing countries and LDCs to promote trade, inclusiveness and sustainable development, and to stimulate their economies, was to target micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
"That's where you find women and youth," Jallow-Tambajang added. "The Gambia's economy, for example, is characterized by micro enterprises which operate in several sectors and women play a key role.
"About 63 percent of MSMEs are micro-enterprises and about 90 percent of enterprises are informal with 80 percent comprising of women involved in the distributive trade, gardening and other handicraft and artisanal trade."
Her message was endorsed at the meeting by Princess Abze Djigma, Burkina Faso's ambassador for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and a champion of lifting up people through small businesses.
"The most important concern for inclusive trade in the LDCs is how to include the small local SMEs and upgrading the informal sector to the formal sector," Princess Djigma said. "They count in most LDCs for more than 50 percent of their GDP and are the engines of local economies."
The event, which was organized by the Enhanced Integrated Framework, was opened with a video message by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, who said the agency's aim was to ensure that more people – especially in least-developed countries – benefited from international trade.
"We must work to strengthen the system so that it is responsive to all of our members," he said. "And we must build on the various decisions on LDC issues that WTO members have already taken in recent years."