Regional Consultation on Migration, Mobility and Trade explored how to capitalize on small-scale cross-border trade for sustainable community development in West Africa
Accra – From 7 to 10 March 2023, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) held a Regional Consultation on “Migration, Mobility and Trade: Capitalizing on small-scale cross-border trade (SSCBT) for sustainable community development in West Africa”. Government officials from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Togo, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, from Ministries and Departments with immigration and trade functions, as well as representatives from the African Union Commission, ECOWAS, the AfCFTA Policy Network (APN) Secretariat and other development partners explored how cross-border trade contributes to community development. A first-of-its-kind, the workshop fostered a better understanding of current and emerging issues around SSCBT through the prism of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Participants agreed on the need for more coordinated and collaborative interventions building on the comparative advantage of different stakeholders.
In Africa, a significant portion of intra-African trade occurs in the form of cross-border trade dominated by SSCBT. This type of trade is often overlooked because of its informal nature, and due to its distinctive feature of continuous cross-border mobility that often takes place through informal channels. Nonetheless, it is estimated that it provides an income to over 40 of African households. .
Kofi Addo, Chief Commercial Officer of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Ghana, said: “SSCBT is an essential source of livelihood for many West Africans. It provides a means of survival for many low-income households, including women and youth, who engage in activities such as buying and selling of goods, transport services, and currency exchange.”
On International Women’s Day, the second day of the Consultation, IOM launched the project “Empowering Women in Small-Scale Cross-Border Trade Between Benin, Ghana and Togo”. Funded by IOM Development Fund (IDF), it aims to consolidate an integrated and cross-thematic approach that contributes towards strengthened community development in border areas, through creating an enabling environment for women in SSCBT.
Main recommendations identified during the workshop include fast-tracking the ratification of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons; ensuring harmonization and sharing of relevant data among government entities and between neighboring countries; simplifying procedures at borders; building the capacity of border officials to facilitate the movement of goods and persons through a human rights approach; providing accurate and timely information to traders about services available, regular channels and formalities; ensuring financial inclusion of traders in SSCBT; building adequate infrastructure at borders; collecting accurate data related to the profiles of traders, their goods, their needs and their mobility; and harmonizing the efforts in the sub-region to reduce instances of abuse and exploitation; and facilitate trade along migration corridors.
Ms. Fatou Ndiaye, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Ghana, Togo and Benin, said: “African societies are, to a large extent, traditionally mobile societies; intra-regional mobility is part of the social fabric in different parts of the continent. Therefore, our approach as migration practitioners and policy makers needs to capture this reality to design responses that address the actual needs on the ground.”
For more information, please contact Naomi Shiferaw, Regional Thematic Specialist on Labour Mobility and Social Inclusion (Snaomi@iom.int) and Fiorella Vargas, Regional Programme Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org