ABUJA, Nigeria, November 12, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The curtains fell on the 7th ECOWAS Trade Fair in Accra, the Ghanaian capital on Monday 11th November, 2013 after 12 days of showcasing of culture and products coupled with sales and business to business networking by traders, manufacturers, industrialists and investors.
Speaking during the official closing ceremony, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Nii Lantey Vanderpuye commended the more 600 exhibitors from 11 ECOWAS Member States and outside the region at the fair and expressed the hope that the exchanges would “yield positive returns and progressive demand and supply relationships for the benefits of our numerous stakeholders.”
“The ECOWAS market is so important to all Member States, and we must do all we can to keep it open, growing and developing,” the deputy minister said, adding: “All our governments therefore need to cooperate to ensure that all technical barriers to trade are removed.”
He lamented that “road blocks and unauthorized tariff/road toll collection on our trunk roads,” impeded the smooth movement of persons and goods across the region’s borders and onto the markets, with negative impact particularly on the profitability of exports and severest consequences on trade in perishable foodstuffs and other agricultural commodities.
As a solution, the minister suggested constant review of “our corporate governance and quality service monitoring systems for the Customs and Immigration officers,” to ensure reduction to the barest minimum, delays at various border posts.
He also called for the facilitation of the construction and commissioning of the “long-held dream of a seamless railway line connecting Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,” to resolve most of the problems associated with the overland haulage of agro-produce and other raw or unprocessed commodities across the region’s borders.
Mr. Felix Kwakye, who spoke on behalf of the ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Free Movement and Tourism, Mr Hamid Ahmed, said the wide variety of products displayed during fair “attest to the vast potential of our region with a combined market of more than 350 million consumers.”
This potential, he said, “should be harnessed for the industrial development of West Africa, to reduce poverty and improve the living standards of our people.”
The Commissioner said the Accra fair “lived up to its billing as a veritable platform not only to showcase made-in-ECOWAS goods and projection of our industrial and investment potential, but also to give expression to the cherished vision of the Community which is moving from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.”
The Commissioner said the ECOWAS Commission had taken note of the concerns expressed by some traders in relation to the challenges they encountered in the intra moving their products from one member state to the other. He assured that the Commission will continue to work with other stakeholders to improve knowledge of the ECOWAS protocols and texts on the free movement of goods and persons with a view to ensuring that citizens moved freely in accordance with the tenets of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty.
He thanked the Government and people of Ghana for the warm hospitality extended to the exhibitors and Community citizens, as well as their immense contribution to the success of the fair.
The chairman of the Fair’s Regional Organizing Committee, Mr. Johnson Kueku Banka of Togo and Mr. Nana Ofori Amanfo, the Exhibition Director and Deputy Chief Executive of the Ghana International Trade Fair Company, both commended the exhibitors and expressed the hope that lessons learnt from the Accra event would help improve subsequent outings.
The speeches were followed by the lowering of the ECOWAS and Ghana’s flags followed by the rendition of the National and Regional Anthems by the Ghana Police Band, to formally draw activities to a close.
Earlier at a Press Conference, Mr. Adou Koman of the ECOWAS Commission’s Trade Directorate reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment and determination to make the biennial fair a veritable showcase of the region’s business and trade opportunities.
He urged Member States, citizens and other stakeholders to play their roles effectively towards the realization of the goals of regional integration and economic development using trade as one of the key platforms.
Ghana’s President His Excellency, Dramani Mahamma, represented by a member of the National Council of State Honourable Christopher Dewornu, declared the fair officially opened on 31st October 2013 at the Ghana International Trade Fair Centre, under the theme: “Regional Integration through Trade.”
ECOWAS Commission Vice President Dr. Toga McIntosh represented the Commission’s President His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo at that ceremony with Ghana’s Trade and Industry Minister Haruna Iddrisu and ECOWAS Commissioner Hamid Ahmed, among the dignitaries in attendance.
Previously held every four years, the regional Trade Fair is now a biennial event. Senegal hosted the first edition in 1995, followed by Ghana in 1999, Togo in 2003, Nigeria in 2005, Burkina Faso in 2008 and Togo again in 2011. The 8th edition will take place in 2015 at a venue to be announced in due course.
Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)