ECOWAS launches sensitisation campaign for women traders

The ECOWAS Commission has launched a sensitisation campaign for women small scale cross-border traders as part of the regional integration agenda.

The three-day programme, launched in Tema on Monday, has delegates from eleven West African countries, including Ghana, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, The Gambia, Cape Verde, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil, the Resident Representative of ECOWAS, said the core mandate of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was to promote, strengthen trade across the various corridors of the sub-region.

The strength of the region’s integration was dependent on the intensity of trade among members, he said, adding that; “There is no talk about integration if there is no trade.”

He acknowledged the pivotal role women played West African trade, especially in small scales along the corridors, hence the need to empower them on the various protocols, among other important issues.

Mr Kolawole A. Sofola, the Acting Director-Trade, ECOWAS Commission, said intra-regional trade, which recorded between nine and 12 per cent over the years, was low compared to other trading blocs such as the European Union, Asia, and Latin America.

That situation called for the promotion of opportunities and addressing the obstacles impeding trade in West Africa.

Apart from that, COVID-19 and other external political shocks aggravated the low intra-regional commerce, as they disrupted supply chains and, in some instances, resulted in the closure of borders for a period, whose adverse effects had been disproportionately felt by small-scale cross border traders.

Mr Sofola said women formed between 70 and 80 per cent of the cross-border trader population, who faced challenges including complex customs clearance procedures and documentation requirements, harassment, as well as irregular fee collection.

“These challenges significantly hinder the development of their businesses, with an overall impact on intra-regional trade and income per capita. Addressing these challenges is critical to the development of a sector that dominates our intra-regional trade.”

He said pillar three of the ECOWAS Vision 2050; ‘Economic Integration and Interconnectivity,’ which sought to deepen the process of economic integration, was at the heart of this pillar through the free movement of people and goods.

The one on ‘Social Inclusion’ placed ECOWAS citizens, mainly women, children, and youth, and all vulnerable people (including people with disability and the elderly), at the heart of development and the integration process.

Mrs Stella Ansah, the Team Lead in the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Division, Ministry of Trade and Industry, reiterated the vital role of women in facilitating trade and economic growth in the region, who faced unique challenges that limited their full participation.

It was, therefore, encouraging to see ECOWAS taking concrete steps to address those issues through sensitisation and education, noting that when women traders understood regional protocols and regulations, they would contribute more to the prosperity of ECOWAS.

Mrs Faustina Acheampong, the Director, Department of Gender, Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, said empowering women was the most necessary action to take in improving sustainable development.

She said once women were equipped with knowledge of business operations, it helped them to function effectively.

“A self-employed woman is capable of contributing not only to family finances but to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product as a whole.”

Source: GNA

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