The workshop, which was held by the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry at a resort in Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia, focused on several World Trade Organization-related instruments.
It was held under the auspices of the Trade Facilitation West Africa Program, from Monday, September 30, 2019 to Thursday, October 3.
The first day of the workshop drew twenty-five participants from the private sector and focused on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), while the second and third days were attended by thirty participants from the trade and transport sectors, with focus on the New ECOWAS Customs Code.
The fourth and final day of the Sensitization Workshop on the ECOWAS Trade Protocols and Agreements, dwelling on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was attended by thirty-five participants.
Speaking during the opening of the exercise, the ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Tunde Ajisomo, stressed the need for a single continental market for goods and services.
Ambassador Ajisomo noted further that a single continental
market, in the context of industrial modification will ensure the free movement of business people.
"A single continental market would help to bring deeper integration and turn the single African economies into a more coherent, larger single market," Ambassador Ajisomo added.
According to Ambassador Ajisomo, the sheer size of the single market would provide a more conducive environment for industrial diversification and regional complementarities than what is feasible under existing individual country approaches to development or Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
"Forty four of 55 African countries have signed the AfCFTA agreement and we are making progress since then because it is encouraging to note that the signatures have risen to 54 with the excepting of the State Eritrea that is yet to sign the agreement," he observed.
He noted further that the larger and more viable economic space would allow African markets function better and promote competition, as well as resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping RECs, thereby helping to boost intra-continental trade.
For his part, Assistant Commerce Minister for Trade Services, Peter D. Somah, spoke about progress being made by Liberia in making WTO instruments workable. Mr. Somah said as a demonstration of the Liberian Government's committeemen to legislating WTO instruments; the Trade Facilitation Agreement has already been ratified, after its submission to the 54th Legislature by President GeorgeManneh Weah.
He told the gathering that the document is awaiting the President's signature, while efforts are ongoing for the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Assistant Minister Somah also lauded organizers of the workshop for selecting Liberia as the venue.
There are prospects for Liberia to receive a financial assistance of US$40million from the international community, including the IMF and World Bank for capacity building facilities as a result of the ratification of the TFA.
Liberia was admitted into the WTO on July 15, 2016 after constructive efforts led to the Country’s Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime being endorsed by relevant stakeholders at the time and currently has a National Trade Facilitation Committee, created through Executive Order Number 74 on January 19, 2017.
The four-day sensitization workshop on ECOWAS Trade Protocols and Agreements attracted speeches and presentations from key stakeholders, including the ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Tunde Ajisomo, and Assistant Commerce Minister for Trade Services, Peter D. Somah, GIZ Project Director, Urich Thuer and an Executive of Borderless Alliance, Justine Bayili, amongst others.