JICA Reaches Out to West Africa for Regional Economic Integration
30 September 2013
The share of world exports represented by Africa has for decades been tiny, and today it is slightly above 3 percent.
Meanwhile, Asia's share has reached more than 20 percent, having more than doubled since 1990, according to World Trade Organization statistics.
Africa's interregional trade also remains consistently low, currently accounting for only 12 percent of its share of global trade.
With increasing recognition that a key to sustainable economic growth lies in trade promotion, JICA has since 2007 assisted in streamlining customs administration, training customs officials and developing large-scale transport infrastructure for facilitating interregional trade, an effort known as One Stop Border Posts, in countries in East and South Africa.
Last October the agency also launched a two-year technical cooperation initiative in West Africa and dispatched experts on customs administration to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (known also by its French name Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, or UEMOA) in a bid to facilitate trade in the region.
As part of its effort to boost trade efficiency in West Africa, JICA co-hosted a high -level customs dialogue in West African countries in cooperation with the Japan Customs and UEMOA last June in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, where UEMOA is located.
The meeting was attended by key persons in customs administration from the eight member countries of UEMOA; Ghana and Nigeria, member countries of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); representatives of the World Customs Organization; representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); representatives from the African Development Bank; and others to promote an interregional partnership and share efforts and challenges faced in customs administration and its modernization.
It´s an epoch-making initiative to hold such a high-level meeting in West Africa on the issue of trade facilitation, with participants from francophone UEMOA member countries with the same currency and English-speaking Ghana and Nigeria with different currencies.
With mounting calls for interregional economic integration spanning different linguistic areas, UEMOA and ECOWAS have promoted dialogue and policy coordination among West African countries in recent years.
Various issues were actively raised by participants, including: "How can we tackle illegal trading, which has become increasingly sophisticated year by year?" "How can we strengthen border administration to facilitate regional trade and economic integration?"
Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire, commissioner for the Department of Regional Market, Trade, Competitiveness and Cooperation (DMRC) of the UEMOA, said that the presence of not only UEMOA, but also ECOWAS member countries, added to the signific ance of the discussion they had on customs.
JICA expert Hiroyuki Miyagawa, who has been advising the Department of Regional Market, Trade, Competitiveness and Cooperation (DMRC) of UEMOA on customs policy since 2012, said in his presentation, "Our duty is to modernize customs administration, strengthen our staff´s capacity building and improve customs procedures in the UEMOA region," and he suggested a need to recognize and tackle challenges shared by not only UEMOA member countries but also all West African nations.
Prior to the start of the cooperation initiative in West Africa, JICA examined the flow and volume of cargo traffic in Ghana and in the member countries of UEMOA other than Guinea Bissau last year and found that traffic between coastal nations is higher than between landlocked and coastal nations.
Other findings included that the Port of Lome was most frequently used as a gateway to inland states, such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. JICA will make use of these findings for the development of international transport corridors, which has lagged behind despite the surge of material and human flow in the region.