Private sector actors, particularly representatives of regional business associations, have been charged to own the initiative which seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of West Africa.
The initiative dubbed: West Africa Connect, is being implemented as part of the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP), and funded by the European Union (EU).
Consequently, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, has urged micro small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) to take full advantage of the services provided by the 37 business resource centres established by the government to build their capacities.
Mr Kyerematen, who made the call in a speech read on his behalf at the launch of a two-day forum in Accra yesterday, said the government was committed to fully accelerate the growth of the MSME sector by collaborating with key partners such as the ECOWAS Commission, UNIDO and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Some of the services provided by the business resource centres, the minister noted, included business opportunity identification, business plan preparation, facilitation of access to finance and credit, business health checks, training in management as well as entrepreneurship and business counselling.
The matchmaking event, which aims at enhancing the integration of ECOWAS member states and other stakeholder countries into the regional and international trading system, brought together representatives from the mango, cassava and Information Communication and Technology (ICT) service sectors and it is expected to link up more than 160 suppliers from 16 West African countries as well as more than 20 buyers from West Africa and other regions.
The participants are expected to use the opportunity to identify “best matches” that is either suppliers or buyers and meet physically or virtually with their new business contacts and trade.
So far, about 299 business to business (B2), which have a lot in common, have been identified and the number is expected to rise as stakeholders continue to engage.
Mr Kyerematen commended the organisers for the objective to connect buyers and sellers from the region and around the world to promote MSMEs within the areas of cassava production, mango and ICT value chains as a promotional tool to facilitate access to markets, discuss opportunities and conclude potential businesses with partners.
He further appealed to the organisers to host more of such events to boost intra African and international trade opportunities to promote MSMEs for the region and support sustainable development.
As a ministry, he said, “we share in the vision of the organisers in providing a platform for building the competitiveness of our MSMEs in general and said the government was focused on the capacity development of MSMEs, especially in the area of profiling, matchmaking and linkage to the supply chain of large enterprises.
The acting Director of Trade at the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Kolawole Sofola, explained that cassava and its derivatives, mango, textiles and garments and ICT were selected under the programme to leverage the transformation and export capacities of the first three value chains.
Considering the importance of the mango and cassava value chains for the development and growth of the region, he said the ECOWAS Commission, with support from the ITC and UNIDO, was organising the forum with its focus on mango and cassava.
The representative of the EU Delegation in Ghana, Mr Timothy Dolan, for his part, said his outfit would continue to cooperate and collaborate with the ECOWAS Commission and other stakeholders to ensure that the regional integration met the needs of the private sector.
These, he mentioned, include increased productivity, competitiveness, sustainable development and grow.