Boosting trade facilitation in West Africa

22 December 2022

Through its e-learning platform, UNCTAD and partners are helping 15 nations redouble their efforts towards trade facilitation reforms and regional integration.

The Port of Cotonou in Benin.
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© Jan Hofmann | The Port of Cotonou in Benin.

An UNCTAD project is underway to enable countries to better implement the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement across the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

It’s set to benefit the ECOWAS Commission and the organization’s 15 members: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, , Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Togo.

Earlier this year, the project received €250,000 from the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program, a five-year initiative managed by the World Bank Group and the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ).

“To improve the free and efficient movement of goods in the ECOWAS region, member states need well-trained national trade facilitation committees to catalyze the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and strengthen regional trading networks,” said Kolawole Sofola, ECOWAS’ acting director of trade.

To achieve these aims, UNCTAD is implementing a capacity-building project under the TFWA program, using the funds to bolster national trade facilitation committees (NTFCs) in the region.

“Through e-learning courses, we aim to empower the committees as effective coordinating entities and lead change agents of trade facilitation reforms.” said Pamela Ugaz, the project’s manager for UNCTAD.

National activities

At the national level, UNCTAD will carry out 10 self-paced e-learing modules and 10 webinars per country.

The courses will cover key subjects of trade facilitation principles, including standards, technical barriers and gender equality.

Each module comprises coursework, interactive videos, quizzes and a final exam. A webinar with experts will complements each module.

The e-learning will be open to members of public and private sectors nominated by NTFC secretariats across West Africa.

They will have free access to UNCTAD's Trade Facilitation e-Learning platform, where all training materials are available.

Supporting regional priorities

UNCTAD will conduct two regional webinars, focusing on implementing trade facilitation instruments and supporting economic integration within West Africa.

The e-learing platform will allow project partners, national and regional participants from different countries to interact and learn from different experiences and perspectives.

The webniars are designed to help advance regional priorities including:

  • Improving trade facilitation measures and implementing them more effectively
  • Expediting the movement of goods along the region’s six key trade corridors
  • Reducing barriers for small-scale traders, especially women, for inclusive development

Over 1,000 trainees from 40 countries

The e-learning platform is part of UNCTAD's empowerment programme for NTFCs, which began in 2015.

So far it has trained nearly 1100 policymakers and NTFC members from 40 countries.

UNCTAD continues to develop new content for the platform to ensure that practitioners are equipped with necessary knowledge and skills to facilitate trade-easing reforms.