Year 2005 Selected
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N°: 16/2005
3 March 2005 [Abuja]


Efforts to improve intra-regional trade in agricultural products and inputs received a boost on Thursday, 3rd March 2005 with the launch of a project in Abuja worth 15 million US dollars. Code-named MISTOWA (the Regional Market Systems and Traders' Organizations in West Africa), the project whose initial focus is on six ECOWAS Member States - Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal - will provide market information, news, demand and supply situation, trends and market intelligence for producers and traders to help them make informed decisions to increase trade. Activities of the first year of the project, which began in September 2004 to end in 2008, are expected to help increase efficiency of regional market information systems, improve effectiveness of existing and new market information systems and ensure that national market information systems are better positioned for information dissemination. Also in its first two years, the project will focus on nine priority products for which the region has relative advantages. These include cassava, maize, rice, cashew nuts, tomatoes, cattle and shea butter. Key areas of MISTOWA include increasing efficiency of regional market information systems, improving capacities of regional trade and producer organizations, improving the trade environment in West Africa, as well as assisting Member States to develop regional-oriented market information systems and trade associations. The MISTOWA project which was also launched in Accra, Ghana on 10th February 2005 was jointly organized by ECOWAS and the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC), the implementing agency for the project which is being sponsored by the USAID. It is expected to enhance the implementation of the recently adopted Protocol on the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP), the web-based systems code-named the Regional Food Security Information System (RFSIS) as well as the ECOWAS Trade Opportunities Management System (SIGOA-TOPS), which is designed to provide online information on offers and demands of goods, services and tenders in the region. In his welcome address at the launch, ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, decried the abysmally low intra-regional trade put at a volume 11%. He blamed a major factor of this development on “the limited access of accurate and timely information on prices, market information and supply and demand conditions”. Dr. Chambas who was represented by the organization's Director of Community Computer Centre, Dr. Sola Afolabi, expressed appreciation that MISTOWA had been designed to improve the flow of market information and that it would respond to the needs of its beneficiaries in ECOWAS Member States. Such beneficiaries include trade and producer organizations as well as processors, governments, private agencies involved in agricultural trade promotion and export, small and medium-scale enterprises, market information providers as well as research institutions. He however urged the IFDC, the project's implementing body, to establish a quantitative benchmark of the current situation, keep the system simple and convenient for the end-users, especially the rural dwellers, and use appropriate technology in project delivery. He also called on all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society, to ensure the sustainability of the project modules and activities after the end of the project in 2008.

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