Awareness campaign on small-scale cross border traders launched
A sensitisation campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by women small-scale cross-border traders within ECOWAS has been launched in Tema.
The campaign, which is in partnership with the Trade Directorate of the ECOWAS Commission and the ECOWAS Gender Development Center (EGDC), is funded by the World Bank Group.
It aims to educate women traders about their rights and responsibilities under regional trade agreements, and to help them overcome the challenges they face in their businesses.
The launch, which coincided with a three-day training for selected women from Ghana, will see officials use trade caravans and town hall meetings along the Tema-Ouagadougou and Lagos-Abidjan corridors to sensitise identifiable groups of women engaged in small-scale cross-border trading along the listed routes.
A Gender Assessment report conducted by the World Bank Group in 2023 found that women cross-border traders earn less, access less capital, trade in lower-value goods, are less informed on trade regulations, and are more exposed to other security threats than their male counterparts.
Bureaucratic processes by way of complex regulations in member countries, corruption, and other factors also impede the activities of women engaged in small-scale border trade.
The report also found that although women are the majority in small-scale cross-border trade, they are not well represented in policymaking.
The sensitisation campaign, therefore, seeks to address these challenges by providing women traders with information and resources to help them to succeed in their businesses.
At the launch of the campaign, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Nana Ama Dokua Asiamah Adjei, said that women played a vital role in facilitating trade and economic growth in the West African region.
However, she noted that they faced unique challenges that limited their full participation.
"The time has come to move from rhetoric to results," Ms Asiamah Adjei said.
"We need regular public-private dialogue to shape pragmatic policies that knock down barriers."
Describing the campaign as a welcome initiative that has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of women cross-border traders in ECOWAS, Ms Asiamah Adjei also pointed out that women's economic empowerment was essential for the development of the region as a whole.
"When women traders understand regional protocols and regulations, they can thrive and contribute even more to the prosperity of our communities," she said.
The Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MOGCSP), Francisca Oteng-Adjei, said in a speech read on behalf of the Director of the Department, Faustina Acheampong, that empowering women was the most necessary action to take in improving sustainable national development.
She said once women were equipped with knowledge of business operations, it helped them to function effectively considering that women often made up a substantial portion of small-scale cross-border traders.
The Acting Director of Trade at the ECOWAS Commission, Kolawole Sofola, said the level of registered intra-regional trade of between nine and 12 per cent over the years was low compared to other trading blocs such as the European Union, Asia, and Latin America.
This highlights the need to promote opportunities and address obstacles to trade in West Africa.
Mr Sofola emphasised that in addition to being a significant proportion of the continent's self-employed population, small-scale cross-border trade was operated mainly in the informal sector, with various studies citing women as forming 70 and 80 per cent of the cross-border trader population, acting as traders, transporters, logistical service providers, food processors, local vendors, and market managers.
The ECOWAS Resident Representative in Ghana, Baba Gana Wakil, reiterated the ECOWAS's commitment to regional integration, emphasising the importance of trade facilitation to the regional bloc.
"There cannot be a successful story to tell about ECOWAS without comprehensively and sustainably promoting and strengthening trade across the various communities in the ECOWAS region," Mr Wakil said.