ITC and UEMOA trade bloc to work together to promote exports, deepen regional integration

18 December 2015
ITC News
Sign Memorandum of Understanding pledging wide-ranging cooperation over five years

The International Trade Centre and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (better known by its French acronym, UEMOA) have agreed to work together to bolster exports from the eight-member bloc, as well as to deepen trade integration and improve the business environment within it.

As per the terms of a memorandum of understanding reached on 15 December, ITC and UEMOA members will cooperate across multiple policy levels to achieve these goals. At the macro level, ITC will support UEMOA governments as they implement the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation, which seeks to cut trading costs by simplifying customs procedures and upgrading border infrastructure. UEMOA’s eight members are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

ITC will work with trade and investment support institutions (TISIs) such as trade promotion organisations (TPOs), chambers of commerce, and business associations, to give them the tools to better help their clients, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), overcome obstacles keeping them out of international markets. These efforts will include the creation of a UEMOA-wide TPO network for the region’s SMEs, to facilitate connections to potential buyers as well as better marketing.

In each country, ITC will work to boost the competitiveness of SMEs in agro-industrial sectors identified for their high export potential or their potential to replace products that are currently imported. The goal is to boost competitiveness and profitability in these sectors through improvements from the farm through to processing, packaging, product quality, branding, transport, and sales. Another key objective is to foster agro-processing in rural areas.

Sectors vary from country to country. Some are chosen for their importance to food security in the region, such as onions in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Senegal; palm oil in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire et Togo; and eggs and poultry in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal. Traditional export sectors include cashews from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire et Guinée-Bissau; mangoes from Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali et Senegal ; and cotton from Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Togo. The project will also seek to stimulate exports in non-traditional medicinal and aromatic plants, such as moringa from Benin and Mali.

Cutting across sectoral and national boundaries, ITC will work with UEMOA to encourage investment into the region, both from developed and developing countries.

Both the priorities and the specific sectors align with those identified by UEMOA in its Regional Economic Programme for 2012-2016.

The five-year MoU was signed by UEMOA President Cheikhe Hadjibou Soumaré and ITC Executive Director-General Arancha González.