TFWA Program Hosts CSO Advocacy Skills Consolidation and Practice Sessions


At the end of January, the TFWA Program organized training sessions for CSOs in Lomé, bringing together 24 CSO representatives, half of whom were women. In Cotonou, the team hosted a workshop in early February that reached 18 CSO representatives. In both countries, top-ranking officials from the government and the ECOWAS Commission attended the workshops.

These sessions form part of the second phase of the program’s “Enhancing the Voice of Citizens in Trade Facilitation Policy Dialogue” initiative. The workshops were implemented in collaboration with the African Center for Trade, Integration and Development (ENDA CACID) and other local partners, including GARED (Togo) and PASCiB (Benin).

The training aimed to support CSOs to:

     Consolidate and apply the skills and knowledge learned in phase one, including using effective advocacy actions to develop advocacy strategies for trade facilitation.

     Reinforce communication, influence, and persuasion skills, and practice writing advocacy messages for trade facilitation.

In Togo, Mr. Batchassi Katchali, Director of Foreign Trade and President of the Technical Trade Facilitation Committee, and Mr. Banjai Barros, the ECOWAS Resident Representative, underscored the importance of CSO actions in advancing trade facilitation. They also stressed the relevance of the TFWA Program on both the national and regional levels.

In Benin, Mr. Eustache Pomalegni, Representative of the Minister of Industry and Trade and NTFC Focal Point, Mr. Amadou Diongue, ECOWAS Resident Representative in Benin, and Mr. Emmanuel Akakpo, Economic Expert of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, participated in the training.

During the opening remarks, stakeholders were reminded of the institutional framework for the implementation of the TFWA Program. The program also highlighted the current ECOWAS crisis that threatens the free movement of people and goods and the relevance of CSO advocacy efforts within the crisis.

Throughout the workshops, participants demonstrated the knowledge and techniques learned and, most importantly, showed enthusiasm for applying those lessons to their work. As the next steps, a series of group mentoring sessions will be provided to support participating CSOs in developing and rolling out the advocacy strategies.


ECOWAS NTFC Empowerment Program Rolled Out Across the Region


The ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) has been successfully rolled-out in all the 15 ECOWAS Member States, with support from the TFWA Program. Tapping into UNCTAD’s global expertise, the state- of-the-art e-training package on international trade facilitation norms is customized for the West African region. Courses are available online and accessible to all NTFC members as well as key WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement stakeholders.

This e-training is an important component of the ECOWAS NTFC Training Framework, which identifies a coherent and long- lasting canvas for West African NTFCs’ capacity building, actively harmonizing their competencies based on their specific needs. The ECOWAS online courses covers:

      Trade facilitation, the relevant indexes, and its relation to the development agenda;

     The role of the NTFC;

     Provisions of the WTO TFA;

     Technical barriers and SPS measures;

     Standards and recommendations of the UN/CEFACT; and

     The gender perspective on the trade facilitation reforms.

Over the past few months, the ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program has contributed in further building the ECOWAS NTFCs’ community of practices. It also highlights the NTFC Secretariats’ critical role in ensuring quality deployment of complex initiatives with partners and mobilizing – in the long run – national stakeholders around the trade facilitation agenda.

The program was officially launched November 2, 2022 during the 2nd ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC), and its first phase was successfully concluded in November 2023.

The first phase has supported each NTFC in developing their knowledge and competencies through an extensive pedagogical path, utilizing engaging training materials and interactive sessions focused on national specificities and challenges. A total of 752 registered individuals participated in the first phase and more than 400 active learners accessed the courses, videos, reference materials, and participated in the webinars with international experts. At the end of the first phase, 253 certified trade facilitation champions had successfully completed individual assessments and essay writing exercises.

As next steps, regional webinars (to complement the national rollouts) will be organized in the first quarter of 2024. They will delve into other key areas, including: developing NTFC discussions on trade facilitation implementation in the West African context, specific regional priorities related to the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and regional trade facilitation instruments supporting integration.

The NTFC Secretariats oversee registration of newly appointed NTFC members who wish to benefit from the training, and the ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program for NTFCs remains available 24/7 to all NTFCs.

ECOWAS Hosts 4th Meeting of Regional Trade Facilitation Committee


The fourth meeting of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC) was held from November 20 to 22 at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja. The meeting was well-attended by high-level stakeholders, including: representatives of ministries responsible for trade, customs administrations, transport and national chambers of commerce from 11 ECOWAS Member States, as well as representatives of the Federation of West African Employers’ Organization (FOPAO), Federation of Businesswomen and Entrepreneurs (FEBWE), Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), ENDA CACID, the ECOWAS Commission, and other development partners: German Development Agency (GIZ), the World Bank Group (WBG), UNCTAD, and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Established in 2021, the RTFC serves as a platform to ensure cooperation and coordination between Member States for harmonized implementation of national, regional, and international trade facilitation initiatives. The body plays a key role, under the upcoming Regional Trade and Transport Facilitation Strategy, in ensuring integrated Member State oversight in by- nature intra-regional trade facilitation initiatives in line with the ECOWAS Vision 2050.

The overall objective of the fourth meeting was to review the implementation of trade facilitation reforms within the framework of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and the African Continental Free Trade Area, as well as consider emerging issues related to the free movement of goods in the region.

The meeting also aimed to:

     Validate terms of references for RTFC sub-committees;

     Review progress of key initiatives such as the ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program for NTFCs;

     Discuss strengthening collaboration between trade and transport committees;

     Consider non-trade barriers issues in the region; and

     Adopt the RTFC Annual Work Plan.

The TFWA Program remains committed to supporting ECOWAS and the RTFC in enhancing trade facilitation across the region.

NTFC Gender Capacity Building Workshop Held in Nigeria and Benin


The TFWA Program organized regional training sessions for NTFC and gender sub- committee members on Mainstreaming Gender to Improve Trade Facilitation Outcomes. The training was held from October 16 to 17 in Lagos and brought together more than 40 members from different institutions (57% women, 76% from the public sector, 22% from the private sector, and 2% from civil society) who actively participated in the training. The workshop also took place in Cotonou from October 23 to 24, with 36 participants (47% women, 3 representatives from the private sector, and 1 representative from civil society).

These trainings are part of broader TFWA Program efforts to both empower NTFCs, as well as support the mainstreaming of gender and SSCBT issues into their workings.They thus build on prior steps supported by the program, including the amendment of NTFC decrees (to include gender stakeholders), the establishment of dedicated structures/sub-committees, and the inclusion of SSCBT and gender elements into their roadmaps/action plans. Similar efforts are underway – albeit at different stages of progress – in various TFWA Program countries such as Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, and Senegal, among others.

The objective of the training was to empower NTFC members, including members of their respective gender sub-committees to:

     Understand key gender concepts that underpin gender mainstreaming as it relates to the work of the NTFC;

     Apply best practices to mainstream gender into NTFC operations and policy making;

     Apply stakeholder mapping and analysis (Nigeria Gender Mainstreaming related case study);

     Understand key concepts of gender sensitive monitoring and evaluation in order to prioritize action steps to promote gender sensitive monitoring in their country; and

     Understand and apply techniques of gender responsive budgeting to promote gender equality.

Workshop participants appreciated the information received from the facilitators and from one another. At the end of the sessions, participants in both countries were awarded certificates and made key recommendations:

     Simplify and harmonize border clearance procedures for SSCBTs beyond the ECOWAS ETLS. In that regard, more consultations with a large number of SSCBTs are needed to tailor the simplification to their needs;

     Organize regular capacity building, sensitization, and awareness raising activities for SSCBTs and border officials regarding simplified border declarations; and

     Conduct a mapping of existing cross-border trade data within NTFC institutions in order to design a comprehensive gender disaggregated data collection mechanism to inform inclusive trade policy designs.

UEMOA Hosts Regional Meeting of NTFC Heads


Under the auxiliary agreement concluded with the TFWA Program, the UEMOA Commission organized a regional workshop from October 25 to 26 in Lomé to further strengthen the integration of practices of UEMOA NTFCs. The Commission—having pioneered proactive support for NTFCs over the last decade—continues to facilitate the exchange of practices and tools to support enhanced regional integration through the trade facilitation agenda.

The workshop was attended by 45 key stakeholders, including: 35 in-person participants, 4 experts per Member State (excluding Niger), 2 World Bank executives, 4 representatives of the UEMOA Commission, and 1 representative of the ECOWAS Commission. Member State delegations were composed of experts from the NTFCs and structures in charge of trade facilitation policy in each country.

The regional workshop was a continuation and consolidation of past initiatives organized with the TFWA Program. For example, national workshops were hosted in 2020 and 2021 in seven countries to:

  • Support the adoption of the regional maturity model for NTFCs as a tool to support the establishment and strengthening of institutional and consultative capacities for the coordination of trade facilitation reforms;

  • Disseminate the findings of the TFWA Program regional field survey on SSCBT and gender conducted along six corridors targeted by the program; and

  • Develop recommendations for the systematic integration of gender into regional trade facilitation dialogue, policies, and reforms.

These national workshops enabled high-quality recommendations for the NTFCs and governments on the practical implementation of these studies and tools. The aim is to support effective and inclusive institutional capacities and trade facilitation policies benefiting regional and local economic operators and SSCBT, especially women.

The regional workshop presented and helped consolidate the recommendations of the national workshops held in 2020 and 2021, and further defined practical ways to strengthen the coordination platforms and inclusive NTFC public-private dialogue. Over the course of the sessions, participants explored how to define synergies with existing evaluation mechanisms, agree on a regional framework to support their implementation, and set up sustainable regional monitoring and evaluation arrangements to promote regional convergence of trade facilitation initiatives. A regional framework to support the implementation of these recommendations was adopted and the NTFCs also adopted a new reporting mechanism on their activities benefiting from the UEMOA financial support. This new process will be implemented from March 2024.

SIGMAT Deployment Progresses in Mali


On May 24, the Director Generals from Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali signed a tripartite agreement for the implementation of SIGMAT. The signing took place in Bamako under the supervision of Mali’s Minister of Economy and Finance.

The timetable attached to the tripartite agreement outlines the pilot phase as July 10, 2023[1] and the pilot phase evaluation meeting in Ouagadougou as October 10, 2023.

Mali selected four offices across the three countries for the SIGMAT pilot phase:

  • Bureau des Produits Pétroliers (BPP-Bamako);
  • Labbezanga office (Niger-Mali);
  • Gao office (Niger-Mali); and
  • Hermakono/Sikasso offices (Burkina-Mali).

In mid-August, a forwarding agent specializing in hydrocarbons informed the Fédération des Transitaires du Mali (FETRAM) of his concerns regarding sudden job cuts — this is because transit operations, previously carried out at the Heremakono border post (Burkina - Mali), are now being transferred to the Petroleum Office in Bamako. As a result, T1s are being directed to the Bureau des Produits Pétroliers in Bamako (chosen as the pilot site) and FETRAM has gone on strike. In the midst of negotiations, the Customs DG reiterated Mali’s determination to move forward with the implementation of SIGMAT, despite the ongoing challenges.

With a view to finding a definitive and comprehensive solution, Mali will undertake the following actions:

  1. The Mali Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIM) issues the TRIE Carnets for the Hermakono Office only for the processing of T1s. The information collected will then be transferred to the SIGMAT module;
  2. To hold information workshops and training workshops on SIGMAT; and
  3. To organize study trips to countries that have already started the deployment of SIGMAT.

As part of the implementation of the recommendations made during the Customs/FETRAM negotiations, a SIGMAT information workshop was held on September 8, bringing together key actors involved in the trade and transport sectors. The event received attention across media platforms, including national media coverage by the Office de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision du Mali (ORTM). The workshop was facilitated by the SIGMAT Project Team from Mali Customs, with the active participation of the TFWA Program. Many speakers expressed a keen interest in the deployment of SIGMAT.

As a next step, stakeholders from key agencies including CCIM, Customs, FETRAM, the Conseil Malien des Transporteurs (CMTR) and the Conseil Malien des Chargeurs agreed to carry out study missions in Burkina Faso and Togo. The costs of these missions will be covered by the TRIE Fund of the Mali Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other professional organizations. As planned, the SIGMAT pilot phase will continue in other offices and their corridors, except for hydrocarbons imported from Niger via Burkina Faso. Also, Mali Customs expects to have significant quantities of T1s for the tripartite evaluation scheduled for October 10, 2023, in Ouagadougou.

Thanks to ECOWAS’ commitment to improve regional Customs, and the support of the TFWA Program, the SIGMAT deployment marks a major victory in improving trade relations between countries in West Africa. Not only will the system help eliminate trade bottlenecks and improve customs operations, but it also aims to strengthen the business environment, fostering competitiveness across the region. The TFWA Program remains dedicated to supporting partners in the next phases of deployment and achieving its objective of improving trade facilitation.


[1] It's important to point out that the pilot phase is, in principle of Customs, the implementation of SIGMAT in a sample of offices. After the pilot phase, SIGMAT is extended to other offices without interruption.

Workshop on Measuring Agency Performance at Land Border Posts


From September 13 to 15, the UEMOA Commission, in collaboration with the TFWA Program, organized a workshop on measuring the performance of agencies at land border posts. The event took place in Lomé with a focus on trade facilitation in the UEMOA area. The event gathered experts from the UEMOA Member States to validate the matrix of performance indicators and determine its administration and implementation methods.

The workshop was opened by the representative of the Minister (responsible for Transport of Togo), Mr. Kossi Dogbey. Other high-level representatives in attendance included the Chief of Staff of the Commissioner (responsible for the Department of Regional Market and Cooperation), Professor Georges Anicet Ouedraogo, and Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank, Mr. Olivier Hartmann.

The workshop aimed to establish a regional mechanism for measuring the performance of agencies at land border posts. This mechanism can ultimately help design modernization reform policies and initiatives that will enable the improvement of services to users at the border as well as the fluidity and speed of customs clearance of goods at land border posts in the UEMOA area.

The participants recognized that the training was highly valuable and important. At the end of the workshop, the stakeholders agreed to:

  • Develop an action plan for the development of the validated matrix administration solution; and
  • Pilot and deploy the solution in all Member States of UEMOA.

The TFWA Program will continue to support the Commission and other national  partners to implement and integrate these measures for improved border /corridor management and overall trade in the region.


TFWA Program Launches new SIGMAT Video


To improve customs-to-customs communication, cut red tape at the border, and facilitate trade across West Africa, the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions, with support from the TFWA Program, are actively deploying SIGMAT across the region. SIGMAT is a computer interconnection system between customs offices of ECOWAS Member States, allowing the quick and accurate sharing of data and information to improve regional integration. With SIGMAT, the customs administrations of two or more countries in the sub- region can instantly exchange digital information relating to goods in transit, enabling the easier and more secure flow of goods.

A new video recently released by the TFWA Program introduces SIGMAT to audiences, explaining how the system functions and the numerous benefits it offers to both private and public actors in the region. Specifically, the video (which is available in both French and English) shows a step-by-step guide of how SIGMAT works seamlessly (from departure to destination) to make trade easier, cheaper, and safer:

  • At departure, the customs office assigns the cargo a unique transit number, which is used in all the countries cross through.
  • The SIGMAT system notifies different customs offices as the goods arrive at posts along the corridor.
  • The unique transit number allows the various offices to easily track and identify the declarations and goods.
  • Each office issues transit notifications that are visible in customs’ computer systems until the goods arrive at their final destination.

The exchange of information benefits both customs authorities and key economic operators, such as small-scale, cross- border traders, by reducing cumbersome administrative work, lowering transit and transportation costs, and increasing customs revenue. Overall, SIGMAT helps to secure trade, reduce fraud, and improve the business environment of the region.

Since its launch in 2019, SIGMAT has gained traction across the region. Following the earlier adoption in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, and Togo, in June 2023, four more countries (Ghana, Guinea, Mali, and Senegal) joined the list and signed an MoU to operationalize SIGMAT.

Signing Ceremony Operationalizes SIGMAT


On June 9th, Director Generals of Customs from ECOWAS Member States signed a memorandum of understanding and the framework instruction to deploy SIGMAT across the region. The operationalization of SIGMAT is an outstanding achievement for the region, and gained a lot of coverage across media platforms. The event also marked a major milestone for the TFWA Program, which has spent several years supporting this move toward interconnectivity of customs agencies.

SIGMAT is a digital system that was developed to improve customs interconnectivity in West Africa. Launched in 2019, SIGMAT has already been operationalized in Togo, Niger, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Benin and recently, four more countries—Mali, Guinea, Senegal and Ghana—followed suit.

This monumental occasion is a testament to Member States’ commitment to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of transit procedures. With SIGMAT, countries can simplify transit procedures, making it easier to track goods, improve the detection of fraud, and secure customs revenues. Additionally, the implementation of SIGMAT will greatly benefit key economic actors such as small-scale, cross-border traders by reducing costs and delays, ultimately making trade easier, cheaper, and safer for them.

In his remarks, Akou Mawussé Afidenyigba, Director of Cabinet at the Togolese Ministry of Economy and Finance stated: "SIGMAT contributes to the implementation of the major instruments of the World Customs Organization and the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, in that it ensures computerized management of transit on an international scale, and thus drives forward the development of a single transit system. The SIGMAT project is designed to implement the major instruments of the World Customs Organization and the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, by providing computerized transit management on an international scale, thus giving a real boost to the dematerialization of customs procedures."

Mr. Salifou Tiemtore, Commission Director of the Customs Union and Taxation at the ECOWAS Commission, which has worked diligently to support the adoption of SIGMAT, added that an efficient transit system contributes enormously to the facilitation of cross-border movements of goods.

The SIGMAT pilot is expected to commence on July 10, followed by an evaluation meeting on October 10. The TFWA Program celebrates this progress and is excited to continue supporting connectivity in the region.

ECOWAS Hosts 3rd Meeting of RTFC


The third meeting of the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC) was held on 27 to 29 of March in Accra. With support from the TFWA Program, 45 participants attended the meeting, including Hon. Michael Baafi, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry; Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Acting Director of Trade at the ECOWAS Commission; and Mr. Abas Djalo, Secretary General at the Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Guinea Bissau; among others.

Over the very productive three-day session, experts and other key stakeholders reviewed and discussed the implementation of regional trade facilitation reforms, addressed trade barriers, and provided recommendations to improve the free movement of goods in the region, including:

  • Taking advantage of the AfCFTA to improve intra-regional trade.
  • Implementing mechanisms to deepen collaboration between the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) Task Force and the RTFC in ensuring the full implementation of the ETLS across ECOWAS Member States.
  • Creating mechanisms to report and eliminate non-tariff barriers that continue to hinder intra-regional trade, especially for MSMEs and small traders.

Additionally, the experts discussed the ECOWAS Non-Tariff Barrier (NTB) Elimination Policy and the Regional Trade and Transport Facilitation Strategy, which are expected to improve intra-regional trade.

The ECOWAS Commission established the RTFC to enhance the coordination, cooperation, and monitoring of all international, regional, and national trade facilitation initiatives. The TFWA Program is happy to have supported the RTFC’s launch and ongoing work.


TFWA Supports Mission to Burkina Faso and Togo


This quarter, the TFWA Program undertook a mission to conduct a SIGMAT evaluation along the Lome - Ouagadougou trade corridor. This mission focused on meeting key trade facilitation stakeholders, including customs officials, border agencies, chambers of commerce, freight forwarders, transporters, and truck drivers in Burkina Faso and Togo.

In both countries, stakeholders recognized the positive impacts of SIGMAT, which include increased customs revenue, reduced fraud, and time savings. Some issues were also addressed to take full advantage of the mission while improving the SIGMAT rollout. Notably, this included coordinated working hours of customs and other agencies on both sides of the Cinkanse joint border post, internet connection, regular training for customs officers and freight forwarders, and extension of the SIGMAT declaration to new routes and destinations, mainly due to the current security situation.

Thanks to SIGMAT, customs services of two or more countries of the sub-region can instantly exchange real-time, electronic/automated information relating to goods in transit, helping to facilitate and revitalize trade between ECOWAS Member States. The use of SIGMAT reduces transit time and costs, making it easier to track goods, increase transparency and fight fraud.


TFWA Hosts Trade and Gender Training for NTFCs


On September 15 and 16, the TFWA Program organized a training session on “Mainstreaming Gender to Improve Trade Facilitation Outcomes” for NTFCs in Burkina Faso and Niger. Both training sessions were held in hybrid format and delivered by TFWA Program experts, Jean-Louis Uwitonze and Jessica Antista. This event forms part of a regional, comprehensive capacity-building initiative to increase awareness of gender in trade facilitation among NTFC members, including gender sub-committee members, and to help these committees place gender issues on their agendas.

The training focused on basic gender concepts, the nexus of trade and gender, and how to incorporate gender into their work. Topics included:

  • Understanding key gender concepts that underpin gender mainstreaming as it relates to the work of the NTFC;
  • Understanding, appreciating, and applying best practices to mainstream gender into NTFC operations and policymaking;
  • Applying stakeholder mapping and analysis to identify and define engagement strategies for any additional stakeholders invited to the NTFC Trade and Gender Working Group;
  • Understanding key concepts of gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in order to promote gender-sensitive monitoring in respective countries; and
  • Understanding and applying techniques of gender-responsive budgeting to effectively advocate for gender equality.

In Burkina Faso, the training gathered 36 participants, including NTFC members and trade and gender sub-committee members as well as representatives from the Ministry of Gender, the Permanent Secretariat of the National Council for Gender Promotion (SP-CONAP genre), the Informal Traders’ Association (Le conseil National de l”Economie Informelle), and the Small-Scale Traders Associations. During the sessions, participants were divided into working groups to discuss and engage in practical exercises.

The closing ceremony was officiated by Mr. Seydou Ilboudo, Director General of Commerce (representative of the NTFC Chairman). He thanked the TFWA Program for the capacity building that is being rolled out for the Burkinabe NTFC and commended the quality of the session. He also congratulated NTFC members for their contributions and encouraged them to remain committed and apply lessons learned in their trade facilitation activities. At the end of the sessions, participants were asked to evaluate the training. Many expressed their appreciation, commended the quality of the training, and noted its importance to their work.

In Niger, the session was attended by a total of 41 members of the NTFC and the Trade and Gender Working Group (65% women, 35% men), including a few small-scale traders. At the closing ceremony, Mr. Boukari Souleymane, a representative of the General Secretary of the Ministry and Chairman of the NTFC, congratulated the participants on their active participation in discussions and practical exercises. He also thanked the TFWA Program for its continued support to NTFCs and commitment to advancing the trade and gender agenda across the region.

ECOWAS and TFWA Roll Out NTFC Empowerment Program


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The TFWA Program and UNCTAD are working together to provide multi-faceted support for the roll-out of the regional ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs). The program has already been launched in several countries across the region, including Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal, and has been well- received by participants, who have demonstrated a remarkable level of commitment to the self-paced learning and interactive sessions.

Recently, the online learning program was successfully launched in Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Cabo Verde, Togo, Liberia and Gambia. NTFC Secretariats play a key role in the process, monitoring progress, ensuring meaningful participation, and supporting participants in their e-learning journey.

The ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program encourages NTFCs to successfully undertake their mandate to implement trade facilitation reforms in a coordinated manner. It enables NTFC members to connect with international experts through a series of webinars. At the same time, the learning program is building new bridges between West African NTFCs. For example, the chair of Ghana’s NTFC trade and gender sub-committee plans to share insights with the NTFC in Nigeria.

Later this month, the ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program will be launched in Ghana.

ECOWAS Commission Launches Empowerment Program for NTFCs


 screenshot 2022 12 13 at 13.29.10

The ECOWAS Commission successfully launched the ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program Training for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs). This initiative is a regional online capacity building program to empower NTFC members to effectively perform their duties and move their trade facilitation agendas forward—equipping them with knowledge of international and regional trade facilitation standards and practices. The initiative was launched in Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal, marking an important milestone for trade facilitation in the region.

This ECOWAS Online Empowerment Program Training for NTFCs uses multi-layered networking and interactivity approach. Course materials are offered in three languages (English, French, and Portuguese) and utilize a wide range of formats, including webinars, recorded videos, quizzes, an e-book, a final exam at the end of each module, and suggested further reading. The platform showcases best practices while providing a dynamic and effective way for NTFC members to learn.

As part of the sequence of activities deployed to support West African NTFCs' maturity, the TFWA Program has contracted UNCTAD to roll-out its Empowerment Program among all 15 NTFCs in the region. This trade facilitation training is online and tutored. As identified during the NTFC maturity self-assessment, it responds to the need to support the NTFC members' knowledge on the TFA and trade facilitation in West Africa.

TFWA Program Presents at the 1st World Trade Congress on Gender



From December 5 to 7, the TFWA Program joined thirty top researchers from around the globe at the WTO’s first international research conference on trade and gender. The biennial event took place in Geneva under the theme "Gender Equality for Sustainable Trade and Recovery". The gathering aimed to debut research conducted by trade and gender experts, showcase new research initiatives, and promote innovative research in the field.

The three-day event was officially opened by the WTO Director General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, along with high level speakers from governments, the private sector, and international organizations. In her opening remarks, DG Okonjo-Iweala noted the gendered impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is in line with the TFWA Program’s research and findings in West Africa, which were presented at the event.

Carmine Soprano represented the TFWA Program and released a paper titled “Assessing the Pandemic’s Impact on Women Traders in West Africa: Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program Survey Results and Key Recommendations.” Findings show that the pandemic severely affected small-scale cross-border traders (SSCBTs), especially women. With border closures and mobility restrictions, these traders faced increased transport costs and dramatic declines in demand for their products. In fact, 42% of these traders reported decreased revenues in excess of 50%. Being largely informal, many women traders were left out from cash transfers and other government COVID relief measures, mainly due to low awareness.

The findings present an opportunity for policymakers to better understand gender-specific barriers to trade and begin designing policies that provide tangible benefits for women. The TFWA Program was happy to present its findings at the forum and will continue supporting the trade and gender agenda through its work and research.

ECOWAS, GIZ Train Journalists on Trade Agreements


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The ECOWAS Commission, with technical support from GIZ, organized a four-day regional workshop to improve the knowledge and capacity of journalists to effectively report on trade facilitation agreements and instruments, including the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The workshop was held from November 29 to December 1 in Abuja, Nigeria and brought together 30 journalists from across 10 ECOWAS countries (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo).

“The ECOWAS Commission is convinced that access to up-to-date information by journalists on the TFA and the AfCFTA is essential to the success of these agreements. The role of the media and specifically of journalists is critical to make progress in the areas of trade and integration developments. The aim is to contribute to building a network of trade journalists across the ECOWAS region. Therefore, the successful implementation of the TFA and the AfCFTA relies heavily on a good communication system that should contribute to informing and sensitizing all actors in the economy and society, in an approach that is both participatory and inclusive, with the ultimate objective of ensuring their ownership of the Agreements,” said Mr. Seydou Sacko, Principal Program Officer, Informal Cross Border Trade at the ECOWAS Commission.

The workshop concluded with positive feedback from participants, who greatly appreciated the insights and experiences shared during the workshop. Hawa Njie, a journalist from The Gambia, said that the training enhanced her knowledge of the AfCFTA and other trade instruments. She said that she intends to use her role as a journalist to enlighten traders on how they can maximize the benefits of the trade agreement.

The workshop also took place in Dakar, Senegal from November 7 to 11 for selected journalists from five-member states in the ECOWAS sub-region (Benin, Cabo Verde, Guinea, Guinea–Bissau and Mali). During the session, Mr. Matthieu Segard from GIZ stated that the TFWA Program and its funders have been working with stakeholders to improve trade and investments in the sub-region. He added that GIZ’s support required journalists and private sector actors to better understand and engage with new trade agreements and protocols—helping them understand their implications for economies across the region.

At the end of the workshop, participants affirmed that they would share the knowledge acquired to improve reporting on trade issues while also helping engaging public actors and policymakers on regional trade facilitation policies and agreements.

TFWA Program Participates at the 2022 WCO Technology Conference


illustration 1 closing of the 2022 Technology Conference

On October 19, the TFWA Program participated at the 2022 World Customs Organization (WCO) Technology Conference and Exhibition in the Netherlands. Under the theme “Driving Customs Performance with Data and Technology in the Changing Landscape of Global Trade”, the conference provided a platform for participants to explore technology-supported solutions enabling customs to operate digitally and create an operating model based on data captured from across the trade ecosystem. The event was attended by representatives of the WCO, customs administrations from across the globe, and border management agencies. 

IT Gallery2TFWA Program representative Maiko Miyake joined a breakout session to discuss the importance of customs-to-customs data exchange to facilitate trade and prevent fraud. In West Africa, sharing data on transit operations is a priority for customs administrations and economic operators. The main objective is to simplify and secure the movement of goods across borders. Against this backdrop, Ms. Miyake discussed the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT). Developed by the ECOWAS Commission with TFWA Program support, SIGMAT is an interconnectivity system designed to automate transit procedures between ECOWAS Member States. SIGMAT offers huge benefits to customs officials, traders, businesses, and governments:

  • Improved efficiency and transparency of customs operations and procedures;
  • Improved risk analysis capabilities; and
  • Increased regional trade (by lowering the cost of trade operations).

Ms. Miyake added that SIGMAT has already been successfully deployed across key trade corridors in West Africa as well as along road/rail components. She also noted WCO’s support, including training IT experts to develop message specifications based on the WCO Data Model (a global standard) organized to simplify complex customs and border regulatory processes and, ultimately, enable seamless data exchange.

Before the session closed, Ms. Miyake highlighted other ongoing SIGMAT related activities supported by the TFWA Program, including: developing a mobile version of SIGMAT; supporting the expansion of interconnection within the region; and supporting training sessions for customs officers, freight forwarders, and other relevant stakeholders. The TFWA Program will continue supporting SIGMAT’s rollout and its uptake by customs authorities across the ECOWAS region.

ECOWAS, GIZ Hosts Capacity-building Workshop for Media


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The media plays a critical role in creating awareness, informing, and educating the public on cross-border trade initiatives.

From 4 - 8 July, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, in collaboration with GIZ, within the framework of the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program, held a capacity-building workshop in Lagos for selected journalists from The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Other attendees included: Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Acting Trade Director of ECOWAS; Mr. Bernard Tayoh, Head of Component, GIZ - TFWA Program; and Dr Ken Ukaoha, Director-General, West African Institute for Trade and Agriculture Development (WAITAD).

The five-day training was designed to improve media reporting on trade issues, ensuring that journalists and media professionals are more aware of existing regional trade protocols and ECOWAS initiatives. The goal is to help the media effectively monitor implementation of these trade related agreements, hold governments to account, and ensure accuracy in reporting. Over the course of the session, participants were introduced to key concepts from international and regional trade agreements and instruments, including the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), and the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET). The workshop also focused on the gender dimension of trade facilitation and challenges related to implementing the regional trade facilitation agenda.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Sofola highlighted the key role of journalists as custodians of information and advocates for trade reforms in West Africa. He stated that there have been numerous trade developments spearheaded by governments and the ECOWAS Commission, such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), to boost trade opportunities. However, many citizens have limited knowledge of these trade protocols and their benefits. He noted that accurate information sharing via effective journalism could improve private sector participation, maximizing the benefits available from such agreements.

Mr. Tayoh mentioned that the training will enhance media understanding of current trade protocols, processes, and opportunities, enabling journalists to effectively monitor the ELTS within the ECOWAS Region. He added: “With new protocols coming up both in the region and on the continent, including under the AfCFTA, we deem it necessary to build the capacity of CSOs and journalists to understand the implication of these measures.”

At the end of the workshop, participants agreed to collaborate and intensify efforts to raise public awareness of ECOWAS trade facilitation policies.

ECOWAS Commission Holds Retreat for Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee


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From 1 - 3 August, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission organized a retreat for the ECOWAS Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee (IDTFC) in Lagos. Participants included representatives of the ECOWAS Directorates and Agencies, including: Trade, Customs Union & Taxation, Transport, Private Sector, Industry, Free Movement of Persons, Research & Statistics, External Relations, Legal Affairs, Communication, and the ECOWAS Gender Development Center. Representatives from GIZ and Afreximbank also attended the retreat. 

At the three-day session, participants reviewed guiding draft documents on regional trade, including the Regional Trade & Transport Facilitation Strategy (RTTFS), the Framework for Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), the Common Trade Policy (CTP), and the Trade and Investment Development Strategy.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Kolawole Sofola, the Acting Trade Director of ECOWAS, welcomed the group and highlighted the Commission’s recent efforts to boost implementation of trade initiatives across the region. He noted the adoption of the Supplementary Act on ECOWAS Community Transit and the launch of the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC), which was created to strengthen synergies between the bodies responsible for facilitation at the country level while simplifying exports, imports, and transit procedures.

Speaking on behalf of GIZ, Mr. Kelechi Okoro, Advisor of Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program, reiterated GIZ’s commitment to supporting the Committee and, once adopted, welcomes the Commission’s oversight in the effective implementation of the strategies.

The IDTFC was established in 2017 to spearhead a coordinated approach to the implementation of trade facilitation agreements and programs implemented by various Directorates and Agencies of the ECOWAS Commission.

SIGMAT Functional Training for Ghana, The Gambia, and Nigeria


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SIGMAT is an ECOWAS Customs interconnection project that aims to improve regional integration by automating transit procedures in the union. The SIGMAT module allows electronic data exchanges between Customs systems—this facilitates and secures the movement of goods across the various trade corridors in the region by providing digital, accurate information to Customs officers about cargo in transit from one state to another.

The Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program promotes SIGMAT through the efficient transport of goods in selected trade corridors:

  • Cote d’ Ivoire Customs is connected (by road and rail) with Burkina Faso’s Customs system
  • Burkina Faso Customs is connected with Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, and Niger
  • Togo is connected with Burkina Faso and Niger
  • Niger is connected with Burkina Faso and Nigeria
  • All those countries share the same Customs System, ASYCUDA

In June 2021, during an ECOWAS meeting, Ghana expressed its wishes to be connected with other countries. The first country will be Côte d’Ivoire. Since Ghana’s Customs system is different from ASYCUDA systems, Ghana has needed some IT development in order to make the electronic exchanges possible. A one-week technical meeting was organized in November 2021 in Ghana. The second meeting, a specification meeting, was held in Ghana in April 2022.

A Ghanaian Customs team is expected in Abidjan in the first week of July 2022 to discuss some technical and legal text issues and decide on an implementation chronogram. The connection will be launched by end of 2022.

UEMOA Launches Land Border Performance Measurement Initiative with TFWA Program Support


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On May 11, the West African Monetary and Economic Union (also known under the French acronym, UEMOA) Commission, with support from the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program, officially launched the land border performance measurement initiative. This development forms part of the Commission’s broader trade facilitation efforts to improve the performance-monitoring capacities of agencies operating at land borders in the UEMOA zone. Once fully operational, the initiative will support border agencies to detect trade bottlenecks, especially issues faced at border-crossing points that affect the movement of goods, while boosting transparency and efficiency of their operations.

The one-day virtual session was facilitated with the support of TFWA Program experts and gathered a total of 47 stakeholders from seven UEMOA Member States (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Senegal and Togo) representing National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs), Customs, and transport associations. Several government ministries — including Trade, Transport, and Agriculture — also attended the event.

The workshop was formally opened with a welcome statement by UEMOA’s Commissioner in charge of Regional Market and Cooperation, Prof. Filiga Michel Sawadogo and introductory remarks by the UEMOA Director of Trade, Mrs. Rose Kabran.

The workshop aimed to:

  • Present the matrix and technical elements to the UEMOA Member State stakeholders;
  • Build the capacity of participants in the area of performance measurement;
  • Provisionally design a performance measurement matrix; and
  • Agree on an action plan to schedule next steps.

During the technical sessions, participants discussed the initiative’s objectives, results, activities, implementation schedule, and modalities. Presentations were delivered with a focus on performance measurement, particularly on the formulation of objectives, the definition of objectively verifiable indicators (such as clearance time, and level of user/client satisfaction), and the identification of sources of verification. This was followed by preliminary design of the UEMOA land border performance measurement matrix in the area of trade facilitation by the participants, who also agreed on a consensus-based action plan to guide the initiative’s efforts over the coming months.

Overall, the workshop was well received and participants commended the efforts of the UEMOA Commission and the TFWA Program in terms of workshop delivery and outcomes. As next steps, participants recommended two virtual workshops to follow up on the design of the performance measurement matrix, which will be complemented by an on-site workshop before the end of the third quarter of 2022.

Factsheet: TFWA Programs Key Achievements


NewsLetterPicThe Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program recently published a factsheet (in English, French, and Portuguese) featuring key highlights since the program’s inception in 2018.

In addition to examples of how the program, with support from regional bodies and other development partners, is making a difference across West Africa, the document highlights the transformative country and corridor-level impacts to trade facilitation measures and reforms.

Key program-supported milestones include:

  • Launch of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee to facilitate National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) coordination across West Africa.
  • Creation of five NTFC trade and gender sub-committees—in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, and Nigeria—to mainstream gender into national trade agendas.
  • ECOWAS Member States’ fulfillment of their World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) obligations. Adherence to the TFA will help reduce the overall cost and time required to trade across the region.
  • Launch and operationalization of the System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT), an IT system designed to connect customs systems across the region, enabling efficient sharing and transparent processing of cargo information between countries.
  • Support for the strengthening of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures at the country level by introducing and deploying electronic phytosanitary certificates (ePhyto), a paperless solution developed to facilitate safe and efficient trade.
  • Several evaluations on small-scale cross-border traders to build evidence on trade and gender in West Africa. The results will help address the principal trade facilitation challenges affecting small-scale women traders along the corridor, such as access to markets and cumbersome customs and border procedures.

Looking forward, the TFWA Program remains committed to supporting partners to deliver inclusive, targeted, and scalable trade facilitation interventions.

Click here to view more achievements on the factsheet

TFWA Program Launches New Video on NTFCs in West Africa


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Recently, the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program produced a short video that provides a high-level overview of National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs), explaining what they are and why they are an important part of trade facilitation.

In West Africa, trade remains a major source of growth for most countries, however trade transactions are often very complicated because of non-tariff barriers, including burdensome customs procedures, poor infrastructure, and inadequate or unclear trade rules and regulations. The video highlights the role of NTFCs as key multi-stakeholder platforms established to champion trade facilitation measures. By strengthening inter-agency collaboration and coordination, NTFCs help eliminate complexity and duplication of efforts, which significantly reduces time and costs related to trade.

The TFWA program is empowering NTFCs across West Africa to achieve more effective and innovative trade facilitation policy outcomes at the national level, while also contributing to stronger regional integration via platforms like the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee.

Watch the video to learn more about NTFCs and trade facilitation in West Africa

GIZ Hosts Strategic Workshop in Senegal


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From April 26 to 28, GIZ hosted a team-building and strategy workshop in Saly, Senegal to discuss the strategic goals for the program while also helping the team develop shared vision and understanding. Working under the theme “The Power of Alignment – Managing Quality & Change Successfully”, the event was designed to exchange lessons learned, ranging from technical knowledge to organizational know-how. Specifically, the training set out to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Identify effective ways to deliver the program successfully;
  • Discuss multiple future scenarios and impacts on program implementation;
  • Explore ways to strengthen potential partnerships with internal/external partners and stakeholders;
  • Build a strong culture based on international, cross-functional, cross-hierarchical team spirit; and
  • Plan next steps.

The workshop commenced with a welcome speech and an introductory overview by the Head of the GIZ component of the TFWA Program, Ms. Barbara Rippel. This was followed by a productive breakout session on individual and group expectations, which stimulated discussions centered on the program’s strengths and weaknesses. Participants were encouraged to share their own personal achievements and even highlighted some program successes, including:

  • Improved Member State coordination across ECOWAS;
  • The adoption of multiple ECOWAS customs texts;
  • The establishment of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC);
  • The successful deployment of SIGMAT along the Dakar-Bamako corridor;
  • The strengthening of the ETLS and development of the ETLS website; and
  • Capacity building activities for customs, tax administrations, and the private sector.

At the end of the workshop, participants worked together to:

  • Develop guiding principles and cornerstones for strategies in different future scenarios;
  • Define the frame of reference for WATIP II;
  • Develop a SWOT and trend analysis, putting into consideration the existing structure, staff, collaborations, and resources; and
  • Develop strategies to successfully master the different scenarios, including stretch goals, indicators/measures, and targets for the future.

Regional Trade Facilitation Committee Launches


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On February 21, the ECOWAS Commission launched the Regional Trade Facilitation Committee (RTFC). This new forum—the first of its kind in West Africa—marks a major milestone for trade facilitation in the region. In June 2021, the agreement (Decision C/DEC.1/6/21) to establish and operationalize the RTFC was made at the eighty-sixth regular session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in an effort to enhance trade facilitation within ECOWAS Member States. The Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Program supports these efforts and commends ECOWAS on launching this landmark regional forum.

The historic launch was marked with a ceremony in Lomé, Togo. The event was moderated by Mr. Kolawole Sofola, ECOWAS Acting Director of Trade and brought together several key stakeholders, including: H.E Mr. Kodjo Sévon-Tépé Adédzé, Togolese Minister of Trade, Industry, and Local Consumption; Mr. Téi Konzi, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs, and Free Movement of Persons; Mr. Philippe Kokou Tchodie, Commissioner General of the Togolese Revenue Office (OTR); and Ms. Barbara Rippel, Head of the GIZ - TFWA Program.

In his remarks, H.E Mr. Kodjo Sévon-Tépé Adédzé explained that the new committee is designed to strengthen synergies between the bodies responsible for facilitation at the country level. He also urged members of the new RTFC to work toward simplifying exports, imports, and transit procedures within and outside the region. Speaking on behalf of Ms. Rippel, Mr. Kenneth Okoro, reiterated the TFWA Program’s commitment to assist ECOWAS in facilitating the movement of goods in the region. Later, TFWA Program representative Bénédicte Meille delivered a presentation on the role of the NTFCs in implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), bringing one of the program’s key focus areas to the RTFC forum.

Following the official launch, the committee commenced its inaugural meeting, which took place from February 21 to 23. Several recommendations were made during this first meeting, including: mainstreaming peer learning and experience- sharing in the committee’s operations; developing sensitization programs for several ongoing trade facilitation initiatives to ensure relevant stakeholders are informed and positioned to fully enjoy the benefits of these initiatives; and strengthening private sector engagement in the design, implementation, and monitoring of trade-related policies, initiatives, and instruments. Moving forward, the RTFC will serve as a platform to ensure cooperation and coordination between ECOWAS Member States for the harmonized implementation of national, regional, continental, and international trade facilitation reforms.

TFWA Program Hosts Side Event at UN Women CSW66


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On March 14, the TFWA Program hosted a side event at the 66th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66). The panel discussion explored issues at the forefront of the trade and gender agenda while showcasing innovative and transformative solutions to build private sector resiliency to market disruptions, with a focus on West African traders. 

The event was moderated by Ewokolo Jeme, a gender expert and training coordinator for the GIZ - TFWA Program, who introduced the key panelists: Dr. Barbara Ky, Director of the Gender Centre at UEMOA; Jailson da Luz Costa, Customs IT and Interconnectivity Specialist at GIZ - ECOWAS; Christel Annequin, Transport Facilitation and Logistics Consultant at TFWA Program (World Bank); and Carine Yemitia, Regional Senior Procurement Officer at IFAD / Chairperson of Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) in Côte D’Ivoire. The event was held virtually via ZOOM, and gathered more than 80 participants and stakeholders from across the globe. 

During the session, panelists unpacked the pandemic- related challenges facing small-scale cross border traders (SSCBTs) across the region. The vast majority, up to 70 - 80 percent, of Africa’s small-scale traders are female. Women represent a huge portion of the private sector, and were thus particularly impacted by COVID-19, which is disproportionately affecting women and deepening existing inequalities in the region. 

Over the course of the event, panelists emphasized the importance of digitalization at the national and regional levels. Digital trade has the potential to improve the efficiency, cost, and transparency of cross-border trade. At the same time, digitalization can help address the limitations faced by women traders. As an example, Mr. Jailson da Luz Costa highlighted ECOWAS’s mission to simplify and automate procedures across the region: “To support traders and reduce delays at the borders, ECOWAS has introduced and adopted the Transit Supplementary Act, an e-tool aimed at facilitating the movement of goods. ” 

TFWA Panel Discussion at UN Women CSW66 English InvitationDr. Ky added that more investment is required for digitalization to benefit women traders. She highlighted the need for capacity and training that equips women traders to take full advantage of digital tools and platforms. On the customs side, Ms. Carine Yemitia said that customs administrations should continue to embrace digital transformation in order to shape the smart supply chains of the future. Automation of customs procedures is key to simplifying trade, allowing less in-person physical contact, reducing customs clearance time and costs, and enabling safer cross-border trade. 

As the conversation continued, the speakers outlined concrete actions that can protect women traders and build their resilience to future business disruptions. For example, Ms. Christel Annequin highlighted efforts by the TFWA Program to simplify small-scale trade through the groupage system, an economical way for traders to bulk their merchandise and send it across borders as groups. 

“To support traders and reduce delays at the borders, ECOWAS has introduced and adopted the Transit Supplementary Act, an e-tool aimed at facilitating the movement of goods.” 
- Jailson da Luz Costa (GIZ - ECOWAS)

This mechanism not only facilitates safe trade, but it saves traders money and decreases the total number of vehicles on the road each day, helping the environment. 

Before the session closed, the panelists highlighted some overarching strategies—such as improving women’s access to trade-related information at the borders—that can elevate women traders and women working in customs administrations. As uncovered during the discussion, this is another important step to addressing the hurdles faced by women in the region. 

ECOWAS Hosts Workshop on Mirror Data for Risk Analysis


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The TFWA Program recently conducted virtual capacity building workshops on the use of mirror data for the Customs Administrations in four pilot Member States of the Operationalization Project of the Supplementary Act on Regional Customs Cooperation of ECOWAS. These workshops were part of the Operationalization Project of the Additional Act A/SA.6/12/18 of December 22, 2018, relating to Mutual Assistance and Customs Cooperation and in accordance with the Action Plan validated by each pilot Member State. 

During the workshops, participants learned key areas of mirror data exchange and risk management, including: 

  • Method and contribution of the mirror analysis in macroeconomic data on foreign trade; 
  • Customs risk management and selectivity, with a focus on post-clearance control (an effective means of optimizing customs controls and expediting the clearance of goods); and 
  • Development and implementation of a mechanism for the exchange and reconciliation of mirror transactional statistical data between border offices of the pilot Member States of the project.

image5 19The workshops provided an opportunity to present cases specific to each Member State. These presentations were based on available data collected from international trade statistical databases and the methodology for interpreting and processing statistical discrepancies detected through the analysis of mirror data. Also, the workshops provided an opportunity to discuss arrangements for the exchange of mirror statistical data on foreign trade and transactional information on cross-border trade at the local level (between offices and customs’ posts at the borders) and at the national level, in a systematic way within the framework of the customs cooperation strategy. 

As a next step, the project is working to implement the exchange of mirror statistical data at the national level and between border offices of the pilot Member States. 


TFWA Program Aims to Create Community of Trust between Traders and Border Officials


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The TFWA Program has begun recruitment for a facilitator to develop an innovative behavioral training and dialogue platform that will build small-scale cross-border traders’ (SSBCTs) awareness of trade rules and regulations. At the same time, this platform will facilitate dialogue to build trust and strengthen SSCBT communications with border authorities. 

These efforts build on the TFWA Program’s Trader Association Mapping conducted in 2020 and Capacity Building Needs Assessment completed in 2021. The Capacity Building Needs Assessment identified very low trader awareness of rules and regulations as a key need in the region. To meet this need, the TFWA Program will provide SSCBT training focused on both technical (for example, national and regional trade rules and regulations, as well as trader rights and obligations) and behavioral (for example, communications, confidence, persistence and resilience) content. 

Additionally, the TFWA Program will foster stronger dialogue with border authorities to catalyze a wider cultural shift— encouraging a move from adversarial to more collaborative relationships. This will include advocating for customs to adopt, as part of their mandate, proactive communications on the evolution of trade rules and regulations, as well as action to support traders’ voluntary compliance. 

In February, the TFWA Program began recruiting experienced training facilitators across its nine focal countries. These facilitators will serve as a critical part of the training design and delivery team. Candidates do not need to be cross- border trade experts, but should bring proven experience using participatory methods (such as role playing / community theater / case studies or experience delivering behavioral training to rural participants, especially women, with limited education and/or literacy). 

The recruited facilitators will help design the training curriculum and a rollout plan that uses a phased approach, in which the curriculum will be piloted in 2022, then refined and replicated in additional countries. 

Selection of the pilot countries is currently underway, and will be based on: 

  1. Existing TFWA Program relationships with in-country Border Authorities; 
  2. Border Authorities’ demonstrated receptiveness to the culture shift envisioned by the TFWA Program; 
  3. The availability of qualified training facilitator candidates in country; and 
  4. Compatibility with the TFWA Program’s existing corridor work plans. 

Recruitment for training facilitators is ongoing in all nine countries, and interested candidates should send applications to

ECOWAS Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee Meets


ECOWAS Meetings Strengthen

On 18 February, the ECOWAS Commission’s Interdepartmental Trade Facilitation Committee met virtually to discuss the following ongoing initiatives: 

  • Regional Trade and Transport Facilitation Strategy. 
  • ECOWAS Regional Non-Tariff Barriers Policy and Strategy. 
  • ECOWAS Regional COVID-19 Response Development (Trade Component).
  • Preparation for the Launch and First Meeting of the ECOWAS Regional Trade Facilitation Committee. 

The directorates represented included: Trade, Free Movement, Transport, Legal, Communication, Industry, and Private Sector. The Committee highlighted the need for capacity-building programs around trade facilitation initiatives to ensure stakeholders are adequately equipped and positioned to efficiently and effectively undertake implementation. 

ECOWAS and GIZ Host SIGMAT Mobile Prototype Workshop



The introduction of the ECOWAS Customs Transit Information System (SIGMAT) is a great leap forward for the West African trade community. Once adopted by ECOWAS Member States, the modernized mobile system is set to facilitate the seamless exchange of real-time, electronic/automated cross-border trade data between Customs administrations. Sharing data in real-time should minimize administrative costs to the business community and facilitate quicker and cheaper trade.

ECOWAS, in collaboration with GIZ recently hosted a three-day regional validation workshop in Abidjan to present the prototype of the mobile system to Member States for adoption. Participants included heads of IT and transit procedure experts from the Customs administrations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, The Gambia, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Togo, as well as representatives of ECOWAS and GIZ.

The event featured a technical session to evaluate the functionalities, features, and requirements of the prototype. With the aim of adoption across the region, the session also encouraged recommendations for improvement. In the end, the workshop validated the prototype system, which allows the project to move to the next phase with trained developers at ECOWAS. Integration, testing, validation, and presentation will commence in early 2022.

ECOWAS - UEMOA Committee Meet on the Management of the ECOWAS Customs Union



ECOWAS UEMOA 2From November 8 to 10, the fourth meeting of the joint ECOWAS - UEMOA committee on the management of the ECOWAS Customs Union was held in Ghana with support

from the TFWA Program. Experts from 13 Member States, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (based on the association agreement with ECOWAS), the ECOWAS Commission, and GIZ attended the meetings.

Mr. Benjamin Ayesu-Kwafo, representative of the Ghana Ministry of Finance; Mr. Tei Konzi, the ECOWAS Commissioner of Trade, Customs and Free Movement; and Mrs. Rosemond Ako Asante, representative of GIZ and focal point for the Trade Facilitation West Africa Program opened the meeting. During the two-day session, experts and other key stakeholders reviewed and discussed:

  • The status of recommendations made during the third joint ECOWAS-UEMOA committee meeting on the management of the ECOWAS Customs Union; and
  • The draft regulation on the Harmonized System (HS) to provide the legal basis for the migration of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) from the 2017 HS to the latest version of the nomenclature.

The HS is a multipurpose international product nomenclature developed and managed by the World Customs Organization under the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. In accordance with the five-year review cycle of the HS nomenclature, the next edition of the HS will enter into force on January 1, 2022.

This review process enables the nomenclature to integrate technological advancements, changes in trade patterns, environmental considerations, and other issues of global concern, thereby ensuring the continued relevance of the HS in a fast-changing world. It is also worth noting that an update will enable the Community to streamline its tariff offer under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

After careful deliberation of the draft regulation, its impacts, and its relevance to the seamless implementation of the CET in the Community, experts from ECOWAS Member States, and subsequently the Directors General of Customs, validated the regulation.

ECOWAS Directors General of Customs Discuss the ECOWAS Community Levy and ECOWAS Customs Union



On November 11, the sixth meeting of the Directors General (DGs) of Customs of ECOWAS Member States took place to discuss the ECOWAS Community Levy and

the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union. Hosted in Ghana, the representatives of the 13 Member States, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (based on

the association agreement with ECOWAS), the ECOWAS Commission, the Office of the Auditor General of ECOWAS Institutions, the President of the Community Parliament, and GIZ attended the meeting.

Opening speeches were delivered by Col. Kwadwo Damoah (Rtd), the Commissioner of Customs of the Republic of Ghana; Ms. Katja Lasseur, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Ghana; Ms. Alima AHMED, ECOWAS Commissioner of Finance; and Mr. Tei Kozi, the ECOWAS Commissioner of Trade, Customs and Free Movement. During the opening remarks, the ECOWAS Commission, represented by Mr.Kozi, emphasized the importance of the meeting and highlighted the pressing issues relating to the finances of the Community and its Customs union. He also thanked the European Union (EU), the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and GIZ for their financial and technical support toward the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union.

During the session, the DGs of Customs and other stakeholders reviewed and examined:

  • The status of recommendations made during the fifth meeting of DGs;
  • The report of the ECOWAS Community Levy;
  • The report of the fourth meeting of the joint ECOWAS - UEMOA Committee for the management of the ECOWAS Customs Union;
  • The status of implementation of the interconnected system for the management of goods in transit (SIGMAT); and
  • The draft texts on the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union.

Following deliberations on the various reports and draft texts, the DGs validated eight documents aimed at the consolidation of the ECOWAS Customs Union:

  • Draft Supplementary Act on ECOWAS Community Levy;
  • Draft regulation on the definition of the list of categories of goods contained in the ECOWAS Tariff and Statistical Nomenclature based on 2022 version of the Harmonized System nomenclature;
  • Draft Supplementary Act on ECOWAS Community Transit;
  • Draft regulation relating to the additional modalities for the application and management of decisions, including advance rulings, relating to the implementation of Community Customs regulations;
  • Draft regulation relating to the determination of Community regime for Customs duty reliefs in the ECOWAS region;
  • Draft regulation on the procedures for the recognition and certification of the origin of products from ECOWAS Member States;
  • Draft Regulation on the determination of the components of ex-factory price and the value of non-originating materials; and
  • Draft regulation relating to the modalities for the functioning of the ECOWAS community transit guarantee mechanism.

The validated texts and reports were annexed to the meeting report and submitted to the Ministers’ of Finance for further validation.

ECOWAS Holds Workshop to Strengthen Customs Administrations through Mirror Data Exchange Across Regional Borders


In 2018, ECOWAS Member States (Mss) adopted the Additional Act A/SA.6/12/18 of 22 December 2018, which focuses on mutual assistance and cooperation between the Customs administrations of MSs—covering the collaboration between MSs and the Commission related to Customs matters. To promote and accelerate the implementation of this Additional Act, a Manual of Procedures was reviewed and validated by experts from MSs. In the same vein—and with a firm determination to strengthen cooperation between Customs administrations—the ECOWAS Commission, with funding from the TFWA Program, commissioned a study to operationalize mutual administrative assistance and information exchange, as provided for in the Supplementary Act. The study aims to enable these administrations to combat Customs offenses and transnational organized crime in a concerted and efficient manner while also promoting the liberalization of intra-community trade with the free movement of goods and persons in the area.

To this end, the ECOWAS Commission, in partnership with the TFWA Program, has initiated a pilot experiment in four MSs (Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Niger, and Nigeria). These countries were selected for the operationalization of the “cooperation and exchange of information between Customs administrations” component of the Supplementary Act, supported by its Manual of Procedures. This pilot is already taking place in a gradual manner, in different Customs cooperation environments, in order to draw the lessons needed to prepare for deployment at the regional level.

The implementation of the pilot project addresses relevant areas of the Supplementary Act, including:

  • Cooperation and information exchange at the cross - border checkpoint, functional office, and Customs headquarters levels;
  • Cross-border trade facilitation; and
  • Concerted regional action against fraud and cross-border crime.

In October, the Directors General of the Customs administrations of the four selected MSs held a workshop to validate and confirm their commitment to the operationalization of the Additional Act. Subsequently, a priority action plan was drawn up and validated by each MS for the effective implementation of the strategic assistance activities to be implemented at the national or bilateral levels.

One of the proposed activities is the design, development, and operational implementation of a harmonized and standardized mechanism with its practical modalities for the exchange and reconciliation of transactional mirror statistical data at

the local level between border offices. With mirror statistics, Customs administrations can address statistical discrepancies and improve their risk analysis and fraud detection. Ideally,the recorded export declarations, from Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, should reflect the recorded import declarations from Burkina Faso to Côte d’Ivoire, but may fail to match in principle.

To accomplish its objectives, a bilateral virtual workshop will be held with the two Customs administrations and TFWA technical teams to align the respective proposals and establish a joint and common specification of the mirror statistics mechanism to be developed and implemented as well as the commencement of the operational implementation between the border offices.

TFWA Program Hosts Panel at WTO Public Forum

 WTO Public Forum PhotoOn September 3, the TFWA Program hosted a high-level panel discussion at the WTO 2021 Public Forum to explore COVID-19’s impact on small-scale traders in West Africa. The session also examined how cross-border trade facilitation and policy reform can foster economic empowerment in the region.

The session was chaired by Maiko Miyake, TFWA Program Manager, who welcomed distinguished panelists, including: Mr. Kola Sofola, Acting Trade Director of ECOWAS; Ms. Rose Tiemoko, Trade Director of UEMOA; Mr. Ken Ukaoha, President of the National Association of Nigerian Traders; and Ms. Khady Fall Tall, President of the West Africa Women’s Association.

During the session, Mr. Kola Sofola highlighted the immediate, disruptive impact COVID-19 had on supply chains. Containment measures and border closures caused adverse effects on financial markets, production, consumption, and investor confidence. He stated: “Findings from a recent study conducted through the TFWA Program reveal that, as a result of border closures and mobility restrictions, trade revenues decreased significantly due to a collapse in demand.” The study found that 42% of surveyed traders experienced decreased revenues by more than 50%. These decreases were most acutely felt by traders in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Niger.

Later in the discussion, the panelists highlighted the severe consequences of the pandemic on small-scale women traders. The speakers emphasized the need for governments to make concerted efforts to address the issues that affect their business operations—including corruption and harassment—by providing support services and guidance to ease movement across borders.

Dr. Ken Ukaoha added that the border closures slowed down production, increased the costs of goods and transport, and led to a surge in e-commerce. He mentioned that most traders struggled to adjust to this new way of working due to historic challenges, such as poor digital skills and costly broadband services. Despite the barriers, he acknowledged e-commerce’s potential as a strategic part of post-COVID trade facilitation in West Africa. After highlighting the benefits of e-commerce to bolster trade, he called on governments to improve digital and trade infrastructure and to build digital capacity for women traders.

The discussion highlighted these and other potential tactics to improve trade and trade facilitation in the region. By highlighting challenges and possible solutions to the issues limiting West African trade, The TFWA Program hopes to create awareness and, ultimately, action. The TFWA Program will continue engaging global stakeholders and shining a light on these important issues.

SIGMAT-RAIL Launches Interconnection Between Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso


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The TFWA Program successfully implemented the rail element of the System for the Management of Goods in Transit, called SIGMAT, in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. SIGMAT is designed to connect customs systems, enabling efficient sharing and processing of cargo information between countries. Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire are the latest two nations to benefit from this technological improvement.

SIGMAT rail was officially launched in Abidjan on June 22, 2021, with the general managers of Customs for Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Niger in attendance. The Ivorian Minister of Budget chaired the ceremony, during which representatives from Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire signed the official agreement. 

To facilitate and encourage this reform, the TFWA Program carried out several activities:

  • Recruited UNCTAD (technical partner) for development of the platform
  • Provided concrete assistance to organize technical meetings between WCO, UNCTAD, SITARAIL, and customs agencies of both countries; these meetings led to the creation of a work plan, legal regulatory framework, user’s guide, and testing sessions.

SIGMAT’s rollout marks a major milestone for both countries, and for the region at large. This reform will greatly impact trade, reducing the time required for merchandise to travel through the Abidjan-Ouagadougou corridor while also supporting an enabling business environment. This rail connection complements the SIGMAT road initiative, implemented by a previous IFC trade project (IFTWA, funded by the European Union and World Bank lending project, PAMOSET).

SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report Socialization Workshops Hosted in Ghana and Nigeria



As a continuation of the regional SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report Socialization workshop series, the TFWA Program conducted workshops in Ghana and Nigeria. The workshops presented findings of the SSCBT survey and gender assessment report— two important and significant research pieces for the West African trade space. The workshops also provided an opportunity to discuss the TFWA Maturity Model, a tool designed to assess the maturity level of NTFCs and inform fit-for-purpose and results-based NTFC action plans, and to encourage effective progress monitoring in response to trade facilitation-related international and continental engagements in each country.

GHANA WORKSHOPThe two-day session took place from July 15 to 16 and was held virtually. Various stakeholders representing Customs, the Standards Organization, Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and other border agencies attended the workshops. Several government ministries—including Trade, Agriculture, Womens’ Affairs, and Finance—state trade facilitation committees, and associations representing SMEs, shippers, and women also attended.

Following the review of findings and report recommendations, the Nigerian NTFC called on the TFWA Program to support the implementation of recommended actions in their work. Specifically, the NTFC called for including gender mainstreaming in trade policy, improving access to finance for traders, implementing interventions to reduce harassment at the border, and awareness-building of SSCBT rights and benefits. Additionally, the NTFC requested capacity building support for the newly established Nigerian state trade facilitation committees (with reporting lines to the NTFC and state governors) as well as capacity strengthening sessions in risk management and other areas. The event was also well received by participants in Ghana.

Implementing e-Phyto in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire



After a successful risk management diagnostic mission in March 2020, a diagnostic report on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and detailed action plan were developed and approved by the government of Côte d’Ivoire. The action plan was prepared with a focus on risk management for SPS and e-Phyto solutions to streamline trade.

Following an official request for support from the government of Côte d’Ivoire, the TFWA team began providing technical assistance. The official kickoff meeting took place February 24 between the Ministry of Agriculture, the TFWA Program, and GUCE (Côte d’Ivoire’s single window platform). Following the kickoff, several meetings were organized with stakeholders (GUCE-CI, Ministry of Agriculture, and Customs) to verify the procedures and each stakeholder’s level of involvement. Additionally, it was important to check whether each current procedure could be dematerialized. Stakeholders were asked to fill in the description of the procedures, difficulties, turnaround times, and costs (if any).

What is the e-Phyto solution?

Phytosanitary certificates are one of many required trade documents for the movement of agricultural commodities. In 2016, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Secretariat worked with other international development agencies—including the World Bank Group—to develop an international solution for advancing a transition from paper to electronic certificates. The system is referred to as the e-Phyto Solution and it consists of three components:

  1. A standardized message protocol to define and harmonize phytosanitary certificates in an electronic format. The electronic phytosanitary certificate is referred to as the “e-Phyto”;
  2. A “hub” or centralized exchange server that allows countries to connect online to exchange of e-Phytos; and
  3. A Generic e-Phyto National System (GeNS) or cloud-based system that allows countries without the technical infrastructure to create, send, and receive e-Phytos. 

A webinar was organized on August 25 to help the Ministry of Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire learn the experiences of other countries that have successfully implemented the e-Phytos. The webinar brought together experts from the IPPC Secretariat, representatives of regulatory agencies in Kenya and Uganda—who spoke about their experiences implementing e-Phyto—and representatives of the grain, seed, and agricultural sectors to provide perspective.

The implementation of e-Phytos by both developing and developed countries significantly improves the security, efficiency, transparency, and predictability of agricultural trade across borders. Effective and sustainable e-Phyto implementation requires in-country equipment, legislation to use electronic certificates, strategies for the governance of technical and operating resources, the establishment of operating structures, the development of cost-recovery mechanisms, and a long-term commitment to the ongoing maintenance of infrastructure.

National Monitoring Committee for the Improvement of the Competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako Corridor Meets


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The third meeting of the National Monitoring Committee for the Improvement of the Competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako Corridor took place on August 27, 2021. The meeting, chaired by the Head of the Technical Unit for Business Climate Reforms (CTRCA), Mr. Soumaguel Maiga, aimed to: 

  • Validate the terms of reference relating to the training of stakeholders on management, safety, and good practices in the area of transportation; and
  • Delineate the implementation status of the National Action Plan.

As discussed in the meeting, two of the six planned activities from the National Action Plan have been implemented, while three others are in progress.  Of these, the planned activity relating to the registration and processing of complaints on the Dakar-Bamako corridor is currently being prepared.

After this brief presentation, attendee comments and suggestions focused on the following points:

  • Setting up a monitoring system to improve the implementation of tasks by the entities responsible for the activities;
  • Continuing communication activities related to the dissemination of the recently developed compendium and driver's guide approved by the committee;
  • Increasing the pace of activity implementation; and
  • Carrying out the monitoring and processing of complaints from users of the Dakar-Bamako corridor.

Despite some institutional challenges and the pandemic, the president reiterated the willingness of his organization and that of the committee to achieve the objectives and significantly improve the competitiveness of the Dakar-Bamako corridor. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the road drivers' union and the Conseil Malien des Transporteurs Routiers (CMTR), who discussed the incident between Senegalese and Malian transporters that led to the interruption of inter-state road traffic between Dakar and Bamako on 15 August 2021 in Kaolack. They ensured that the traffic will resume soon with the involvement of the highest authorities of both countries.

SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report Socialization Workshops Underway Across the Region


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In April and May 2021, the TFWA Program hosted a series of workshops to share results from the program’s small-scale cross-border trade (SSCBT) survey with key stakeholders in the region. The TFWA team also used the opportunity to introduce the program’s Gender Assessment Report, a recent publication unpacking gender’s critical role in trade. The SSCBT Survey and Gender Assessment Report represent two important and significant research pieces for the West African trade space.

Workshops took place in six key West African markets (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali and Togo), with more sessions planned over the coming months. Two-day physical workshops were held in several countries alongside virtual, remote-friendly video conferencing to encourage wider participation. A variety of stakeholders—from ministers of trade, to ministers of gender, to delegates from the EU, the ECOWAS Commission, the UEMOA Commission, and several traders associations—attended the sessions, provided insightful contributions, and endorsed the TFWA Program’s activities.

Workshop niger

During the sessions, the TFWA Program presented in-depth country-specific data and extensive diagnostics on SSCBT and gender. In addition to presenting results from the SSCBT survey and gender assessment, the workshops provided an opportunity for the NTFCs to share results of their self-assessments and to discuss their priority activities to improve committee efficiency. Importantly, the workshops not only provided an engagement space for TFWA stakeholders, but also renewed partnerships and re-invigorated stakeholder commitments to improve inclusive trade facilitation in West Africa.

ECOWAS Meetings Strengthen Regional Trade Cooperation


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In April and May, the Directorate of Customs and Taxation of the ECOWAS Commission, with the support of the TFWA Program, organized various meetings of the Working Group on the ECOWAS Certificate of Origin Dematerialization Pilot Project. The meetings hosted experts from ECOWAS Member States as well as the World Customs Organization to review the state of progress on the functional and technical specifications of the electronic certificate of origin (CO) architecture based on data collected from Member States. The Member States then drafted a 12-month action plan and formulated recommendations.

In the meeting on the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit (SIGMAT), Member States reviewed the status of SIGMAT implementation at the national, bilateral, and multilateral levels. The report shows that Benin, Burkina, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Togo have more or less implemented SIGMAT either at the national or bilateral levels. Some member states, particularly Ghana and Guinea, have committed to implement it by December 2021. However, other states, including Gambia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, have not given any target date. The experts also continued their review of the draft Supplementary Act on SIGMAT.

In the third regional meeting, the Commission presented the innovations introduced in the ECOWAS community transit guarantee mechanism, including community coverage of the guarantee (valid from the office of departure to the office of destination), the financial solvency of the guarantor and his joint liability, the introduction of the comprehensive guarantee carried out using electronic digital means, and an automated guarantee management system.

The Working Group on the Transit Procedures Manual met to conduct preparatory work that would define the functionalities of SIGMAT and all the procedures characteristic of community transit. For this purpose, the experts worked in sub-groups on topics such as formalities at departure, transit, en route, and destination.

These meetings showed that the pilot experience of CO automation is very advanced, but the legal framework still needs to be implemented to secure and formalize it by settling issues related to the electronic or digital signature and the validity of the electronic certificate. Moreover, significant progress has been made in the implementation of the legal framework regulating community transit, notably SIGMAT, with the endorsement of draft texts by experts from the Member States. However, there are still technical and technological issues to be addressed, especially assistance to States to upgrade their IT infrastructures.

ECOWAS Commission Partners with Other Development Partners to Build Capacity with Women and SMEs


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The TFWA Program, through the Directorate of Trade of the ECOWAS Commission, collaborated with United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), International Trade Centre (ITC), Afrexim Bank, United Nation Commission for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the African Union Commission to conduct a series of capacity building trainings. The trainings aimed to enhance the capacity of women and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to trade within the Trade facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The series of trainings—which started by employing a train-the-trainer model—took place in Sierra Leone on April 7-9 for women enterprises from all ECOWAS Member States (MSs), on 12-14 April in Ghana for SMEs in Anglophone MSs, and on 20-22 April in Côte d’Ivoire for SMEs from Francophone and Lusophone MSs.

In total, 42 MS representatives attended the event in Sierra Leone. The delegates included: HE Finda Koroma, the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission; Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy, Minister of Trade and industry; Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai, the UNDP Resident Representative, who represented Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, the Assistant Secretary General and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa; and

Mr. Christopher Forster, President of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce (SLCC). In Ghana, apart from the 20 participating dignitaries in attendance, other notable delegates included: the UNDP Resident Representative for Ghana, Ms Silke Hollander; the Chief of Staff at the AfCFTA Secretariat, Mr. Silver Ojakol; and Mr. Kolawole Sofola, Ag. Director of Trade of the ECOWAS Commission. In Côte d’Ivoire, 20 dignitaries participated in the meeting. Overall, the capacity building program was intended to highlight the links between the TFA articles and opportunities for ECOWAS traders within the AfCFTA. The program also contributed to an understanding of strategies/approaches to source inputs and export goods and services within the AfCFTA. Additionally, the program encouraged use of the AfCFTA’s operational tools, including the African Trade Observatory and the Non- Tariff Barriers Reporting System.

TFWA Program Hosts Panel on Trade and Gender at UN Women CSW65


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The TFWA Program took part in UN Women’s 65th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) by hosting a panel discussion on cross-border women traders. Taking place on March 18, the event gave panelists an opportunity to explore how to prioritize women traders during post-COVID economic recoveries. Despite women’s active roles as economic players, women traders in West Africa struggle to retain equal footing in their economies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated many of these challenges.

The event welcomed distinguished speakers including Dr. Bolanle Adetoun (Director, ECOWAS Gender Development Centre), Alejandro Alvarez de la Campa (Manager, IFC), Naa Densua Aryeetey (Senior Manager, Ghana Shippers’ Authority), Ewokolo Jeme (Gender Expert and Training Coordinator, GIZ/TFWA), and Dr. Barbara Ky (Director, UEMOA Gender Department), and was moderated by Maiko Miyake (TFWA Program Manager).

Beyond being an admirable objective, gender equality was described by most panelists as an economic necessity. Panelists highlighted key gender gap statistics and showcased best practices for improving trade conditions for women. The speakers also explored how to mainstream gender into trade policies, strategies, and programs, recognizing the importance of a new generation of trade interventions, such as the TFWA Program, which emphasizes gender, women traders as key project beneficiaries, and targeted interventions that make it easier, cheaper, and faster for women to trade across borders. Panelists delved into their own institutions’ gender mainstreaming efforts to address gender inequality in trade and trade facilitation, providing great insights and interesting lessons learned for the audience.

All speakers emphasized the need to increase means for collecting sex-disaggregated trade data to better quantify and identify gender gaps. UEMOA’s Dr. Barbara Ky stated: “when trade policies are inclusive, they support equality which leads to positive economic growth and poverty reduction.” Additionally, the panelists noted that—not surprisingly—women traders were among those hit hardest by the pandemic, as border closures and mobility restrictions imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 also resulted in a dramatic collapse of demand for goods and reduced opportunities to access customers and markets. In this sense, the panel acknowledged the important role that initiatives such as the TFWA Program can play in driving post-COVID-19 recovery, both by supporting relief measures and also by encouraging innovative trade solutions.

All panelists concluded that women’s economic participation remains critical to a resilient and sustainable recovery from the pandemic, calling for increased collaboration, more consultations with women traders, and further specialization in gender analyses to sustainably and effectively put women first.

TFWA Program launches two new videos

As more and more activities take place across the sub-region, two videos were produced to expand awareness and increase TFWA Program visibility with key stakeholders and the wider public. The first video offers a high-level overview of the program and its component. The second video highlights results from key data gathered in the TFWA Program’s 2019 survey of small-scale cross-border traders (SSCBTs) along project corridors. Click below to watch the videos and learn more about our work.

Analyzing COVID-19’s impact on small-scale cross-border traders

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In September, the TFWA Program undertook a field survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on small scale cross-border traders (SSCBTs). The survey focused on SSCBT commercial activity along the TFWA Program’s six priority corridors and aimed to:

  1. Understand COVID-19’s impact on SSCBT business operations and profitability
  2. Identify SSCBT awareness of and access to COVID-19 assistance
  3. Understand key decision factors that would impact SSCBT adoption of potential TFWA COVID-19 assistance measures

Quantitative data from field surveys with 1,391 traders has been analyzed to provide initial insights on the impact to business, revealing about 50 percent of traders were no longer able to pay their suppliers—41.5 percent of which is due to lack of funds and 8.5 percent of which is due to disruptions in normal payment channels. It also showed that despite SSCBTs generally being eligible for COVID-19-related cash transfers, these transfers did not successfully reach them. Further, some SSCBT were not aware that this assistance was available. Another finding revealed that the largest transportation challenge affecting traders since COVID-19 has been the increased cost of transport, with women hit harder across all transport challenges cited, leaving many to turn to pooling as a key coping mechanism.

Qualitative data from 72 focus group discussions with traders and transporters will be analyzed in the coming months. Based on the comprehensive analysis, the TFWA Program will design and pilot intervention(s) to address specific challenges faced by small-scale cross border traders in selected countries.

NTFCs undergo gender capacity needs assessment

As part of the TFWA Program’s efforts to mainstream gender across all project components, a gender capacity needs assessment was conducted for National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) in nine ECOWAS countries. In fact, despite the critical role of women in trade, NTFCs in the region are largely gender-blind in their operations. With this in mind, the World Bank contracted A2F Consulting to assess the gender capacity of NTFCs while striving to integrate gender into trade-related processes and policies, ensuring trade facilitation contributes to inclusive growth.

A multi-tier capacity assessment was carried out to understand gender capacity needs, both at the individual and organizational levels. Key informant interviews were conducted with six to 10 key stakeholders in each country, including with NTFC leadership and relevant members. Additionally, a rapid assessment of NTFC members’ level of gender awareness in each country was conducted through a digital survey of between three and 14 NTFC members per market (representing between 26 percent to 65 percent of total membership).

Results revealed that surveyed NTFC members have low levels of awareness of the gender and trade nexus and lack operational know-how to integrate gender. Across the studied countries, respondents lacked an understanding of gender issues, particularly as they relate to trade. NTFCs have expressed interest in integrating gender into their day-to-day operations and policymaking activities; however, they do not know where to start. Additionally, the NTFCs are at a nascent stage of development and typically do not have the level of institutionalization, operational platforms, or resources to support true gender mainstreaming. Thus, capacity building needs to be framed within the operational guidance necessary to build organizational effectiveness, which can be achieved through the development of a gender-sensitive NTFC operational toolkit.

NTFC Member Self Assessment

Evaluating CSOs/NGOs to influence integration policies in West Africa

MapDespite the COVID 19 crisis, which sparked border closures and numerous restrictions across the region, many activities planned under TFWA Program Component 3.3—which focuses on strengthening civil society’s ability to advocate for and influence trade facilitation—were completed. A study of NGOs / CSOs and associations active in West African trade was carried out along the six corridors covered by the project. The mapping aimed to identify NGOs / CSOs working in the trade and trade-related space, characterizing their institutional profiles, their fields of activity, their geographical locations, their modes of organization and governance, and their strengths and weaknesses.

ENDA-CACID’s presence in each of the nine countries surveyed—using focal points and partner organizations to minimize the pandemic’s impact—yielded very satisfactory results. In total, the mapping reached 576 organizations, including 402 associations and individual NGOs and 176 umbrella organizations. In addition to showing the sector’s diversity, the study highlighted the strong presence of women in CSO decision-making structures in the region. In fact, 35 percent of decision-making body members (members of executive boards or boards of directors) are women. Additionally, 40 percent of the mapped organizations were headed by women. Even though a significant portion of the organizations do not directly perform regional and international activity, 60 percent were connected to networks or federations working at the regional and/or international level. This gives the organizations an opportunity to bring concerns back to the regional, national, or international level while also receiving information from the wider community. This connectivity also provides the potential to participate in advocacy campaigns and influence national and regional policies.

CSO NGO storyCSO NGO story 2Civil society brings significant added value to the TFWA Program. West African NGOs / CSOs have experience monitoring regional ECOWAS policies related to trade and the free movement of people and goods. These organizations also have experience implementing agricultural policy and, more recently, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). For a long time, regional policies were exclusively devised, developed, and conducted by official national and regional structures, without the participation of outside actors. Today, this approach is changing. Many stakeholders recognize that NGO / CSO participation is a condition for sustainability, ownership, and success. To maximize this relationship, the TFWA Program will continue working with civil society. As a next step, the mapping will be extended to include an assessment of NGO / CSO training needs as well as workshops focused on trade facilitation advocacy. 

Safeguarding SPS for food security and greater competitiveness



Climate change and food insecurity are two major global threats. Though challenging, these threats have actually birthed opportunities for landlocked countries like Burkina Faso. In the 1980s, after observing coastal neighbors like Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire producing bananas without irrigation, Burkina Faso adopted a series of new irrigation techniques to gain competitiveness and grow their local market. In this banana plantation rush, some cooperatives operated negligently, disregarding sanitary and phystosanitary measures (SPS) such as the quarantine stage required for importing vegetables and vegetable products between Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Ignoring SPS led to the importation of a banana disease called “Black Sigatoka”, which ultimately created a 50 percent shortfall in production and lasting problems for the banana industry.

TFWA Program support for Burkina Faso’s SPS requirements

The World Trade Organization regulates SPS assessments and controls at both the national and international levels. Respecting SPS requirements before introducing agricultural or animal produce remains a critical element to guaranteeing the safe importation and exportation of goods to or from any country. In an effort to improve its SPS assessment, Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Agriculture requested TFWA Program collaboration toward improving SPS adherence across different trade corridors. This would enable the country to limit the propagation of pests and diseases while also guaranteeing the safety of foods, agricultural, and animal products.

Following the Ministry of Agriculture’s request, the TFWA Program conducted a gap analysis and built a work plan with core activities focused on raising awareness of SPS’s critical role and utility. Among other activities, the program will closely liaise with a variety of stakeholders at the border in order to increase their understanding of SPS and its benefits. The TFWA Program will also strengthen plant protection operators’ capacity by organizing national consultations on accepted SPS risk assessment procedures.

Digitizing to increase SPS efficiency

In most TFWA Program countries, the elaboration, issuance, and transmission of phytosanitary certificates for export is still a manual process, in paper form. This hampers the flow of agricultural and animal produce. Electronic phytosanitary certificates (E-Phyto) on exports can be used more quickly, as soon as they are accepted by the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) of the importing country. This shift to electronic certificates with the International Plant Protections’ Convention’s (IPPC) E-Phyto solution would significantly reduce customs clearance times, associated costs, and the risk of forgery. It would also provide more accessible phytosanitary data for risk management and control agencies, even prior to the arrival of goods, including airfreight transportation.

Pushing digitization and improving awareness around the purpose of SPS measures—demonstrating how SPS controls provide more benefits than constraints—ultimately has the potential to improve trade facilitation and food security, which is needed in corridor-dependent countries.

Virtual workshops focus on private sector ETLS training

Training ETLS CNA GuineaThe TFWA Program supported the Directorate of Customs Union and Taxation (DCUT) of the ECOWAS Commission to host a virtual workshop for the private sector of French and English-speaking ECOWAS Member States focused on the use of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) website. The workshops took place in October and November of 2020, gathering a combined total of 247 participants, including representatives from the private sector and the media. These workshops aimed to inform and familiarize key ECOWAS Member State stakeholders with the ETLS website, a regional tool aimed at promoting the free movement of goods across West Africa.

As a result of the workshops, it is expected that ETLS will have greater awareness within the business community and media, which the program hopes will ultimately increase business opportunities emerging from ETLS-approved products. TFWA will continue organizing trainings and information sessions in partnership with Directorates of the ECOWAS Commission to increase the capacity of its members and optimize regional trade facilitation.

Working together to implement a key regional tool for mutual assistance and customs cooperation – the launch of the ECOWAS Supplementary Act on Mutual Assistance and Cooperation between Customs (MACC) pilot

20oct20 meeting of ECOWAS CMAA DG pilot meetingThe ECOWAS Commission called on the TFWA Program team to support its efforts to build a consensus driven Supplementary Act (adopted in December 2018) to guide and enable the fluid flow of information and related cooperation activities between customs administrations and the ECOWAS Commission through a Mutual Assistance and Customs Cooperation Agreement (MACC). When ECOWAS needed to see a more active implementation of the MACC, it requested that the co-implementers of the TFWA Program develop a plan for piloting the operationalization of this customs cooperation and enforcement instrument. In a very short period, a modality for bringing the regional instrument—from signing ceremony to operational reality by ECOWAS Member States—was established. The ECOWAS MACC Working Group worked diligently over the summer to design a comprehensive strategy and workplan for piloting the ECOWAS MACC.

On October 22, 2020, customs directors general or alternates in the four selected pilot countries—Niger, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso—gave unanimous support for the ECOWAS initiative and expressed their appreciation to the TFWA Program. An aide memoire from the meeting was circulated and focal points will be identified from each country’s administration to work with the MACC technical committee to deliver the agreed action plan. This is a great start and will be an excellent forum to expand the subject matter to broader risk management and compliance matters in the future. For now, the excellent collaboration between the TFWA Program co-implementers and ECOWAS will need to expand to the four pilot countries to ensure the initiative’s success.

Improving cross-border information sharing, including technological tools, is not only part of the ECOWAS vision for a more closely integrated region, but is also consistent with recommendations from the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Once the Supplementary Act is piloted along these distinct corridors, it will facilitate operational practicalities for other ECOWAS Member States.  

Workshop trains National Approvals Committees on the ETLS website and portal

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The TFWA Program supported the Directorate of Customs Union and Taxation (DCUT) of the ECOWAS Commission to organize a virtual training workshop for members of National Approvals Committees (NACs) of ECOWAS Member States. The workshop, hosted in October, focused on the use of the website and portal of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS). In total, 162 NAC members—ranging from representatives of Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Regional Integration, Ministry of Finance, Customs Directorate, Chamber of Commerce, and National Export Promotion Body—attended the workshop.

The training, which was requested by the ECOWAS Commission and was well received by the NAC members, aimed to sensitize and re-introduce members to the operational mechanism of the ETLS Scheme while also tactically addressing frequently identified challenges and difficulties encountered by the NAC in the approval of enterprises and products. The training is expected to enable NAC focal points to operationalize the ETLS and significantly reduce delays for approval. As a result of the workshop, the TFWA Program also hopes to increase the number of applications for approval to the scheme from all ECOWAS Member States. With this workshop, TFWA reaffirmed its aim of improving the capacity of NAC members for the effective implementation of the ETLS Scheme and enhancing business opportunities emerging from the ETLS website and portal.

Small-Scale Cross-border Trade Survey Explores Gender Barriers in West Africa

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To expand the base of evidence needed to design well-informed program activities, the TFWA Program commissioned a field survey on small-scale, cross-border traders (SSCBTs), including women traders, along the program’s six priority corridors.

The survey—which called on interviews with traders, officials, and border intermediaries—generated a large base of sex-disaggregated quantitative evidence on SSCBT patterns, dynamics, and related gender ramifications. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions with traders’ associations, local authorities, and financial institutions provided valuable qualitative information on the topic. The survey also provided an assessment of existing border and market infrastructure, and data on how its users perceive it.

In West Africa, the role of small-scale women traders is often underestimated—trade policies and interventions rarely encompass measures addressing the challenges women face.

Poor, gender-neutral data on SSCBTs prevented proper diagnosis of the best ways to promote inclusive regional trade facilitation. The TFWA Program tries to fill this gap, starting by generating reliable evidence. 

The survey shed light on the space, complementing and corroborating previous assumptions and hypotheses on SSCBTs and gender in West Africa. The TFWA Program synthesized the survey results into a one-page infographic, which provides a detailed overview of the SSCBT survey findings.