NEW PROJECT LAUNCHED FOR INCREASED INTRA-REGIONAL TRADE ON AGRICULTURE PRODUCTS
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
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 âthe limited access of
accurate and timely information on prices, market information and supply and
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.