The ECOWAS Commission, through the Trade Directorate and the ECOWAS Gender Development Center (EGDC), has organized a retreat in Tema, Ghana from 15th to 17th August 2023, to finalize preparations for the sensitization and awareness raising campaign for small-scale cross-border women traders and to engage relevant stakeholders at the national level in the planning and execution of the activity. The retreat included a field visit by the participants to the major market in Tema Community 1 and the Transport station to familiarize with the area and to facilitate the initial activities of the sensitization campaign to be held at Tema, Ghana.
The retreat was attended by experts from ECOWAS Institutions and representatives from the Ministries of Trade and Industry, and Gender, Children and Social Protection of the Republic of Ghana; representatives from the Ghana Union of Trade Associations; and other Micro Small and Medium Enterprise owners.
In her opening remarks read on behalf of the Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, Prof Fatou SOW SARR; and the Commissioner for Economic Affairs and Agriculture, Dr. Massandjie TOURE-LITSE, the Director of the ECOWAS Gender Development Center (EGDC), Mrs. Sandra OULATE FATTOH, expressed appreciation to the Government and people of Ghana for accepting to host the meeting. She also thanked the Ministries of Trade and Gender, Children, and Social Protection of Ghana for facilitating the holding of this retreat.
She noted that the sensitization campaign touches on the fundamentals of the ECOWAS Regional integration process, which hinges on the promotion of regional trade and characterized by the free movement of Persons, Goods, and Capital.
Mrs. OULATE FATTOH indicated that studies have shown that women constitute about 80 percent of small-scale cross-border traders, thus making them key stakeholders in the realization of the integration agenda. She highlighted some of the key challenges facing women engaged in cross-border trade, including complex customs clearance procedures, sexual harassment and undue delays at the border posts, extortion, ignorance of cross-border trade instruments and regulations, lack of sanitary facilities at the border posts, corruption, and different types of verbal and physical abuses. She outlined the major measures put in place to address these challenges, principal among them being the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
She concluded her remarks by expressing optimism that through the collaborative efforts of the Directorates of Trade, Customs, Free Movement, and the Gender Development Center in the implementation of the sensitization campaign, within the framework of the Trade Facilitation West Africa Program (TFWA), women SSCBT operators would be adequately sensitized on cross border trade and gender instruments for an accelerated integration process and in furtherance of the ECOWAS vision 2050. On that note, she declared the retreat open.
On behalf of the Acting Director of Trade at the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Kolawole SOFOLA, the Program Officer in charge of Trade and Development, Mr. Christopher Mensah-Yawson, recalled the objectives of the meeting and thanked the Government and People of Ghana for accepting to host the meeting. He also thanked the participants for accepting to participate in the meeting and urged them to bring their expertise and experiences to bear on the deliberations to ensure a successful and effective sensitization campaign which may be considered as a pilot for possible future exercises along other corridors in the region.
In her welcome remarks on behalf of the Government of Ghana, Madam Faustina ACHEAMPONG, Director of the Department of Gender at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, welcomed the participants from the private sector and the ECOWAS Institutions to the retreat and thanked the ECOWAS Commission for considering Ghana for the retreat and the sensitization campaign. She noted that once women are equipped in knowledge on business operations it helps them to function effectively. She also pointed out that a self- employed woman is capable of contributing not only to family finances but the Nation’s GDP as a whole. She concluded by observing that the initiative will go a long way to equip women cross-border traders with the knowledge on trade regulations in order to make their trade transactions much easier.
The Meeting revised and validated the itinerary and road map for the sensitization campaign, which is scheduled to commence on 2nd October and end on 15th October 2023; and identified relevant committees to be established to facilitate the planning and implementation of the campaign. The retreat also reviewed, amended and agreed on the budget for the campaign.
The campaign will consist principally of the official launch, town hall meetings and a range of activities along the Tema-Ouagadougou corridor highway.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).