ECOWAS unveils digital business module for economic growth

Group photo of participants at the  unveiling of the West African Competitiveness Observatory (WACOB) module in Abuja. May 22, 2024 (NAN).

By Mark Longyen

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has unveiled the West African Competitiveness Observatory (WACOB), an online platform, to facilitate regional trade and stimulate economic growth across the sub-region.

President of the ECOWAS Commission Dr Omar Touray who unveiled the module in Abuja, said the platform would enable policymakers and businesses to track countries’ trade competitiveness and new business opportunities.

Touray, represented by the bloc’s Commissioner, Economic Affairs and Agriculture, Massandjé Toure-Liste, said the facility is a collaborative effort between ECOWAS and the the International Trade Centre (ITC), funded by the European Union (EU).

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The observatory, he explained, is a tool intended to connect buyers and sellers of regional value chain products seamlessly and promote regional and international trade.  

According to the ECOWAS Commission president, the observatory’s inauguration comes at a time when West Africa is working to tackle the challenges posed by globalisation, technological advancement, and an evolving trade landscape.

“At the heart of ECOWAS is trade and market integration.

“Our treaty provides for the removal of trade barriers and the harmonisation of trade policies to establish a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and eventually, a Monetary and Economic Union in West Africa.

“For years, we have developed instruments to promote, facilitate, and negotiate trade with third parties.

“Key among them are the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Schemes (ETLS), the Common External Tariff (CET), and the West African Common Industrialisation Policy (WACIP).

“Some others are ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP), Private Sector Development Strategy, and ECOWAS e-Commerce Strategy,” he said.

According to him, ITC has continued to support the region with tools to improve regional trade.

“Worthy of mention is the ECOWAS Trade Observatory Alert Mechanism (TOAM), which is an online platform developed to facilitate the identification and elimination of obstacles faced by companies in their daily export and import operations.

“Notwithstanding the achievements recorded in economic development, the region continues to experience low competitiveness and productivity.

“This is due to inadequate trade and market information available to our entrepreneurs, the dearth in regional trade infrastructure as well as low levels of industrialization and productive capacity,” Touray maintained.

He said there was a need to improve the region’s competitiveness by diversifying and increasing regional value-added, adding that with its three modules, the platform would position ECOWAS as a global growth and opportunities hub.

“Over the next two days, we will have the opportunity to explore deep dive into the observatory and its functionalities, taking into account its enormous potential to connect SMEs and large enterprises that have developed businesses along these value chains, thereby promoting intra-regional trade.

“Beyond this official launch and workshop, we will count on our partners to provide the necessary support and capacity development for business operators and other stakeholders that will make use of the observatory for the region to take full advantage of the platform.

“As we implement the AfCFTA, this tool will also provide support to the private sector to take advantage of the continental market,” Touray said.

Also speaking at the event, ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton, expressed the hope that ECOWAS policymakers and businesses would take advantage of the platform to turn the region’s untapped trade potential into economic growth.

“The observatory will provide important information for policymakers and businesses to explore international markets and support SMEs to effectively access the market, generate employment, and contribute to economic growth.

“Policymakers and businesses, use the observatory for insights into the sub-region’s great untapped trade potential and turn that potential into tangible economic benefits.

“We hope to see businesses, especially the small ones, make the most of this tool to find buyers and explore new markets,” she said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the business matchmaking module facilitates cross-border collaboration for businesses by promoting products and services and allowing them to connect with partners across the sub-region.

The module, which is aided by automatic translation in English, French, and Portuguese, comprises three elements: the regional value chains module, the B2B matchmaking tool; and the regional value chain guides.

According to ITC’s export potential estimates, whereas more than half of its intraregional export potential, valued at 3.2 billion dollars, remains untapped, the sub-region could add 45.7 billion dollars in exports to the world by 2027. (NAN)

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