Ecowas, Giz Train Over 30 West African Journalists on Trade


Abuja, Nigeria – GIZ, ECOWAS in collaboration with the African Union (AU) recently organized a wee-klong training session for selected media practitioners from across the West African region. 

The training was to enhance the capacity of participants on the effective strategies on communications to ensure that trade and trade facilitation instruments work and impact positively on the population. 

By: Mae Azango

The Trade Facilitation of West Africa (TFWA) is a multi-donor initiative supported by European Union, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, USAID, and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and implemented by GIZ and the World Bank Group (WBG).

The training, which brought together over 30 English and French speaking journalists from 10 West African countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger, Senegal, and Ivory Coast, was held at the Bolton White Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria. In a statement, GIZ said it supports measures that necessitate collaborative initiatives and efforts between GIZ and key non-state actors — journalists, public and private sector partners — in the accomplishment of targeted activities aimed at achieving set goals. 

This means all stakeholders’ level of understanding trade issues must be elevated. “It is for this reason that this five-day trade advocacy training is taking place, with the major objectives to build the capacity of the journalists to promote and facilitate regional multi-stakeholders’ dialogue including public, private dialogue on issues related to regional trade policies and trade agreements. 

And create platforms for consultation between corridor stakeholders to establish consensual governance mechanisms and for effective policy monitoring. Therefore, I would like to urge participants to follow the training and discussions with the utmost interest and to share the knowledge which you will receive,” GIZ added.

According to ECOWAS, the main objective of this regional training of journalists was to introduce and facilitate their reporting on Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) within ECOWAS Member States. 

The regional body also said that they initiated the training because the awareness of the TFA and the AfCFTA is limited across all sectors in ECOWAS Member States.

“The ECOWAS Commission is convinced that access to up-to-date information by journalists on the TFA and the AfCFTA is essential to the success of these agreements. The role of the media and specifically of journalists is critical to make progress in the areas of trade and integration developments. The aim is to contribute to building a network of trade journalists across the ECOWAS region. Therefore, the successful implementation of the TFA and the AfCFTA relies heavily on a good communication system that should contribute to informing and sensitizing all actors in the economy and society, in an approach that is both participatory and inclusive, with the ultimate objective of ensuring their ownership of the Agreements,” said Mr. Seydou Sacko, ECOWAS Principal Program Officer, Informal Cross Border Trade ECOWAS Commission. 

Sacko also added that although West Africa has made significant efforts in this area, the participation of non-state actors in policy development and evaluation is not a definitive achievement because it is not institutionalized. 

It remains dependent on the goodwill of the regional authorities at the time. During the interactive training section, trade expert, Prof. Olumuyiwa Alaba said the lack of awareness on trade by mainly women traders’ networks and organisations makes them usually fall prey to robbery and insecurity during cross border trades within the ECOWAS region. “I would blame the women traders for some of the ugly things that happen to them while doing cross border trading. But sometime due to customs officers extorting money from them, they would rather prefer to take the illegal bush paths, thereby falling prey to robbery and insecurity, instead of going through the regular means,” Prof. Alaba said.  He disclosed that ECOWAS has put into place a hotline for traders to call whenever they are faced with challenges at border crossing points.

The trade expert further said that ignorance of the texts makes women vulnerable to officers on corridors and at borders. “This leads to the payment of illegal taxes, fosters corruption and leads to a loss of trust between actors and official agents,” he stated. Participating journalists expressed their gratitude to the organizers for giving them the opportunity to learn more about trade within West Africa and urged the organizers to keep the line of communications open. 

They promised to build a media network on trade and to keep writing and informing their people about the importance of trade.

Specifically Gambian Journalist Hawa Njie said the training opportunity will benefit her because as a human-interest broadcaster in her country, trade is one of the most important key factors in development especially for the Gambia which is a small country. “Small businesses, especially agro businesses are really facing a lot of issues when it comes to importation and exportation of their goods and services. I think this training has enlightened me to the argument of the AfCFTA, WTO, TFA and other argument and how those arguments can help these small businesses grow their businesses in terms of exporting and importing raw materials. So, my role as journalist will help enlighten the traders and stakeholders on how they will benefit from the AfCFTA and other arguments when it comes to trade.”