Increasing West Africa’s capacity for trade

EU website. As a stepping stone to achieving a regional Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the EU Development Council expressed a clear commitment to support the EPA Programme for Development (“PAPED”) on May 10.  PAPED is an ambitious programme for trade and economic co-operation in West Africa that supports the EPA’s objective to deliver development through trade.

The Council conclusions on PAPED clearly state that development cooperation would accompany the implementation of the EPA, thereby strengthening the competitiveness of economies and the integration of regional markets in West Africa, while domestic markets gradually open  to the rest of the region as well as globally. PAPED has been discussed between the EU and the 16 countries in West Africa alongside the EPA negotiations. It has five priorities:

  • Diversifying and expanding production capacity
  • Developing intra-regional trade and facilitating access to international markets
  • Improving and strengthening national and regional infrastructures linked to trade
  • Carrying out necessary adjustments linked to trade
  • Supporting the implementation and evaluation of the EPA.

The Economic Partnership Agreement process is unique in that it will produce a trade agreement with an explicit development objective. It represents a new partnership between the EU and West Africa, aimed at fostering the development of West African economies by producing and exporting a wider range of goods and services and by trading more with their neighbours. The agreement offers substantial benefits to both producers and consumers across West Africa. For producers, it offers duty- and quota-free access to the EU, and will also lower the cost of imported inputs. For consumers, the deal offers access to a wider range of quality products. At the same time this agreement provides all the necessary safeguards for the sensitive products of West Africa, its small farmers, infant industries, and food security.

When implemented, the agreement is thus expected to help West Africa to increase its exports and reduce the price of imported goods needed to boost its productivity. By signing the EPA, West Africa would also be sending a signal about the stability and credibility of its economic institutions and economic governance.

The EPA negotiations between the EU and West Africa are ongoing, with the next round of talks planned for 7-11 June 2010 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The Council conclusions mark a key step in the negotiations on this Economic Partnership Agreement. Funding available for the EPA Development Programme “PAPED” from existing EU cooperation instruments is expected to reach at least €6.5 billion in the coming five years. According to the European Commission, West Africa can thus be assured to take advantage of the opportunities opened by the EPA. This significant funding will in particular help to improve the competitiveness of West African productive sector, its effective access to European markets (for example through supporting conformity with Sanitary and Phytosanitary Rules) and its physical integration by means of improved infrastructure networks. In addition to its own contribution, the EU will also strive to facilitate other donors’ support to PAPED, in order to help the region articulate and increase the support it receives from other bilateral and multilateral financing in the area of aid for trade.

Boosting capacity

PAPED is indeed a broad economic cooperation agenda, as it covers all dimensions of ‘aid-for-trade’. Currently, the EU is the world’s biggest aid for trade donor. This area of cooperation aims at helping developing countries to integrate into the rules-based world trading system and to more effectively use trade in promoting the overarching objective of elimination of poverty in the context of sustainable development. It therefore also contributes to the development policy’s main objective: achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Total aid-for-trade commitments from all donors for West Africa in the next five years can be projected to more than $12 billion (approximately €9.4 billion).

EU development ministers lauded the manner in which PAPED was agreed, which saw the active involvement of many stakeholders from national governments, from the private sector and from civil society. This reflects a great sense of ownership in the West African region. Ministers hope that PAPED will be given the prominence it deserves within West African national policies.

Regional integration

West Africa is well on the way to achieving greater regional integration as it seeks to create a customs union, a common market, and a monetary union, much like what is happening in Europe. Progress is already underway in the area of free movement of people and goods, as well as regional policies in the energy, transport and agricultural sectors. PAPED can be an appropriate strategic framework to help secure resources to reach these goals.


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