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EU-ACP Trade and Development Cooperation - Revolutionizing economic diversification and empowerment through inclusive and sustainable aid for trade

Posted on: July 04, 2019

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The Aid for Trade Global Review 2019 took place from 3 to 5 July 2019 at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, under the theme “Supporting Economic Diversification and Empowerment for Inclusive, Sustainable Development through Aid for Trade”.

In the spirit of cooperation, the EU-ACP TradeCom II Programme, the EU-ACP CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) and COLEACP, jointly organised a joint EU-ACP session around the theme “EU-ACP Trade and Development Cooperation - Revolutionizing economic diversification and empowerment through inclusive and sustainable aid for trade”.

It brought together representatives of the EU Commission, the ACP Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), ARSO, CROSQ, the Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation and the Global Shea Alliance, to discuss ways and means of translating Aid For Trade into real economic gains on the ground in ACP countries, including for youth and for women.

Discussions, moderated by Viwanou GNASSOUNOU (Assistant Secretary General, ACP Secretariat), focused on the question “How EU-ACP aid for trade cooperation can drive the sustainable development agenda, and create synergies with other trade and cooperation instruments for more effective, sustainable and progressive results?” and in particular on three main areas highlighted by Axel POUGIN DE LA MAISONNEUVE (Deputy Head of unit, DevCo European Commission) in his key-note remarks: the economic empowerment of women and youth; quality infrastructure development as a pillar of trade partnerships; and innovation in North-South and South-South connectivity. These elements reflect in part the requisite for enhancing EU-ACP trade cooperation as they help maintain inherently inclusive aspects while seeking to achieve greater integration into the global economy and promoting sustainable development. These imply harnessing the strengths of the EU Aid For Trade Strategy to ensure that it brings real gains in the areas of trade and investment and poverty eradication through job creation. This also means real and full implementation of the EU External Investment Plan  encouraging investment in partner countries in Africa, promoting a new model of participation of the private sector and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Finally, this implies maintaining the solidarity of the ACP Group going forward and commitment to sharing of best practices for enhanced cooperation and connectivity.                                                            

With respect to economic empowerment of women and youth, Elisabeth Nsimadala from the Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation, representing 20 million farmers (and organisations) in East Africa, highlighted that more than 70% of farmers in Sub Saharan Africa are involved in cross border trade with a high number in the informal sector.  The analysis done by her organization led to the development of an agribusiness toolkit mapping all actors along the value chain within the East African region, that includes training manuals, documents cross border requirements with guidelines, and facilitates cross-border trade and sharing of best practices. “E-GRANARY” is an innovation of the Federation, allowing for virtual aggregation of farmers (in terms of input, service and output markets), creating critical mass and influencing national policy in favor of women and youth. Specific problems encountered by women and youth are related to capacity and access to finance. Solutions could be the creation of a special fund to de-risk agriculture and support financial inclusion of women and youth.

Aaron ADU, Managing Director of Global Shea Alliance (GSA), expounded on the importance of shea butter and kernels in East and West Africa benefitting 16 million women (collectors and processors). Its exports have boomed oved the past 20 years (from 30 mt in 2000 to 500 000 mt in 2017). Barriers, however, to women’s empowerment include norms and resources. The GSA sustainability programme seeks to provide infrastructure and market linkages to women, leading to increase in income, increased productivity, new technology and the development of leadership roles in communities and cooperatives. Over 300 000 women have been trained by the GSA and have been organized into cooperatives. This has encouraged the private sector outreach to the cooperatives to further their enhancement and growth. All donor support, including the form of Aid for Trade, is used to support trade and export of shea products by women.

Under the sub-session on Trade Partnerships for mutual benefit, quality infrastructure was discussed as central to economic empowerment of the private sector. Hermogene NSENGIMANA, Secretary General of African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), took the opportunity to underline the need to support inter-African trade on products that are consumed across the African regions. He insisted on the harmonisation of norms as being essential for trade. Respecting and upholding institutional frameworks should also be the subject of aid for trade.

CROSQ’s Executive Director, Deryck OMAR, reiterated that the future of QI is in conformity assessments, which basically means proving that the quality of a product is approved through, inter alia, better market surveillance, laboratories, certification systems. The representative supported the idea that EU AfT programmes should focus on intra-regional trade. Trade-related investments are also important to help the quality infrastructure in a new and pertinent way, coupled with capacity building.

The session also focused on innovation in North-South and South-South connectivity.

Going beyond quantitative considerations in the area of trade, Thê Quang DONG, Director, Francophonie économique et numérique pointed out that “The Francophonie” has elaborated a three-pronged approach: a) it focuses on local investment in local products to assist their export and creation of wealth; b) secondly, it is important to focus on South-South connectivity which require concrete and operational solutions; and c) finally the OIF focuses on sharing of best practices among South regions.

Arjoon SUDDHOO, Deputy Secretary General of Commonwealth Secretariat, focused on the Hub and Spokes initiative, which has deployed over 30 trade advisors over the past years and, as with similar programmes, worked well because of partnership and collaboration. With respect to digital trade, development advisors have developed digital strategies for Member States. The recent Commonwealth connectivity agenda aims at promoting economic growth and development by digitalization. Its aim is to close the digital divide between developed and developing countries through 6 components, viz., physical connectivity (trade facilitation and infrastructure development); digital connectivity (supporting development of national digital economies, regulatory framework and best practices); regulatory connectivity (improving legal frameworks and promoting good practices); business to business connectivity (greater interface between public and private sectors, with focus on MSMEs); supply side connectivity (participation of members in global value chains) and inclusive and sustainable trade (ensuring that women and youth are mainstreamed in all pillars).

These two programmes mentioned above, encourage cross fertilization of actions across all ACP regions and foster inclusive, gender responsive approach to the development of trade policy.

Programme funded by European Union at the request of ACP Group - Implemented by AESA CONSORTIUM