The 7th ECOWAS Trade Fair has rounded off in Ghana’s capital, Accra, after 12 days of showcasing of culture and products by 600 exhibitors from 11 ECOWAS member states and outside the region, PANA reported Tuesday.
Speaking at the closing of the Trade Fair on Monday, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Nii Lantey Vanderpuye commended the exhibitors 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 unauthorised 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 represented ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Free Movement and Tourism Hamid Ahmed at the closing, 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”.
Ghana’s President Dramani Mahamma, who was represented by a member of the National Council of State, Hon. Christopher Dewornu, declared the fair open on 31 Oct. at the Ghana International Trade Fair Centre, under the theme: “Regional Integration through Trade.”
The regional Trade Fair, which used to hold every four years, 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.