West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) member states recently gathered to share the results of the first full survey data collection on international trade in services.
This is an important first step to support, among others, efforts to bring to life a pan-African free trade agreement.
UNCTAD and UEMOA hosted a joint workshop to validate the results of this first survey conducted across six of the west African nations in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, from 12 to 14 March 2019.
Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire have successfully run their first full surveys, covering on average, 350 enterprises per country. “The workshop is part of the UNCTAD-UEMOA common project, which aims to establish a harmonized mechanism of data collection, treatment and dissemination of statistics related to the imports and exports of services,” said Steve MacFeely, UNCTAD's head of statistics and information.
The regional workshop brought together a powerful collective including representatives from UNCTAD, the UEMOA statistical commission, the Economic Community of West African States (CEDEAO), and representatives of the National Statistical Institutes, the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), and the ministries of commerce from each of the eight member states.
During the workshop, countries presented their preliminary estimates on international trade in services, with breakdowns by partner country, mode and detailed service categories.
Statistical certainties and uncertainties
Surveying in the West African context is not without its challenges, and while the preliminary results are positive, there remains work to be done. The results were presented cognizant of these caveats.
National Statistical Offices, presenting their work, highlighted several issues that arose during the first survey including sampling, extrapolation and imputation for complete and partial non-response, freight estimates, consistency with BCEAO estimates and non-availability of relevant, up-to-date and complete business registers.
Asymmetries in intra-UEMOA estimates were also highlighted.
The workshop also allowed participants to discuss other developments that will move the project forward. Three key areas stood out. Firstly, the proposed Acte Communitaire prepared by UNCTAD.
“This community legislative framework sets out the high-level principles and regulations necessary to compile trade-in-services statistics at the community and regional level,” said Mr. MacFeely.
A preliminary questionnaire and overview of collection methodologies, prepared by UNCTAD, for the measurement of travel services was also discussed. The complexity of measuring this sector quickly became clear and highlighted the need to develop and implement appropriate methods to estimate travel services on a consistent basis across the region.
Lastly, UNCTAD presented the Trade-in-Services e-Learning courses available, which could be delivered to improve the statistical capacity of the UEMOA member countries. Participants welcomed the proposal and UNCTAD confirmed that it would prepare a dedicated session for all interested candidates.
The workshop participants prepared a list of recommendations to be adopted for the success of the project and agreed to the implementation of the second full survey and the details of the next regional workshop.