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Trade minister opens regional workshop on ECOWAS database

July 17, 2019

By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

Trade minister sandwiched by ECOWAS and UNIDO country reps and participants

The Minister of Trade and Industry yesterday opened a two-day Regional Training Workshop for National Focal Points on ECOWAS Database Application which is geared towards providing statistical data on quality and industries across the region.

The €12 million European Union funded project which is implemented by the Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation (TII) of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is to finalize the process of setting up the quality and industry database to provide the region with a reliable reference tool accessible to economic operators and other interested parties.

Trade Minister, Dr. Edward H. Sandy told the gathering that improving people’s lives through trade and development, to which standards and quality are crucial in establishing a framework for the development and exploitation of appropriate, relevant, effective and efficient quality infrastructure, was one of the New Direction administration flagships.

He said the workshop was timely and that the country was open for business and his ministry was well poised to support the improvement of productivity and commercialization of the country for international competitiveness.

“Let me assure this gathering that this government remains very committed in doing the required reforms that will position our country for trade and investment growth. As an integral member of the MRU, ECOWAS and the AU, we have ratified all regional and continental trade agreements, and as a country we are poised to take full advantages of the opportunities these agreements present,” he stated.

He noted that the government was aware of it obligations to build strong quality assurance and standardization, adding that international trading relationships were built on trust achieved in developing reliable structures for standards, agreements, codes and regulations.

He added that his ministry would continue to review existing policies and strategies and implement changes to trade and industry, thus making it more competitive in creative entrepreneurship and innovation with the view to promoting ‘made in salone’ products.

The minister said his ministry was not only working together with other line ministries to make trade and investment an attractive occupation for women and youth, but also to include them in the process of economic transformation.

He called on UNIDO for their continued support in addressing gaps in their national quality infrastructure services, technical barriers to trade and the sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

He assured the gathering that his ministry would continue to promote and prioritize policies which enhance national competitiveness and create the best possible environment for enterprise, innovation and investment across all regions in Sierra Leone.

Earlier, Country Representative of UNIDO, Mrs Mariatu Swaray started off her speech by sharing statistics of Africa’s share of global manufacturing, which she said was only 1.6% in 2014.

She said the availability of reliable and relevant data was undoubtedly a means of stimulating investment in view of the economic potential available in Africa, particularly in West Africa.

She noted that the workshop on the ECOQUIB database would provide them with updated data on quality and industry in order to better promote the achievements and efforts made by West African leaders through the various programmes, particularly those relating to quality, financed by the European Union and implemented by UNIDO.

“UNIDO is therefore pleased to note the endorsement at the highest level by ECOWAS Member States of the need to designate quality and industrial data officers, whose capacities will be strengthened during this workshop,” she said.

The UNIDO boss added that the development of an effective quality infrastructure to ensure quality, safety and competitiveness in local and international markets, as well as the availability of reliable and relevant data, were some of the challenges for industrial development.

She maintained that her organization was pleased and proud to have been associated, for nearly two decades, with the efforts of the West African region, through the ECOWAS Commission and the UEMOA Commission, to establish an appropriate regional quality mechanism.

She concluded by thanking European Union for its continued support for private sector development and quality infrastructure in West Africa for reposing confidence in them for the implementation of the programmes concerned, thus expressing hope that their contribution to the various programmes was and would remain up to expectations.

In his brief speech on behalf of the ECOWAS President and Commission, representative of the ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, Ajoku Kamjika, noted that the workshop was organized within the framework of the West African Quality System (WAQS) Programme, which is one of the major programmes of the ECOWAS Commission, as part of the implementation of the West Africa Common Industrial Policy (WACIP).

He said the EU decision to fund the project shows that it fully appreciates the importance of quality infrastructure, which aims to strengthen the business environment by providing the region with the necessary means to improve the supply of products and services and, ultimately, to ensure consumer protection.

The ECOWAS strongman added that without reliable data, decision-making would be difficult, especially for the economic operator or political decision-maker and that it was that they have in mind, that the Commission identified among the priorities of the WAQSP, the establishment of a database covering both quality infrastructure and industry.

“For its user, this database is intended as an information tool, but also as a decision-making tool,” he said.

He said issues of reliability and sustainability were among the guidelines shared with the team of experts mobilized to carry out the said work.

Meanwhile, National Focal Point of the WASQP who doubles as the head of Standard Bureau, Professor Thomas Yormah applauded the initiative and added one of the outcomes of collecting data was that it would varies strength and weaknesses.

“Until you put data together you won’t know whether you are strong or you are weak. When once you put these data together it would help you to improve on weakness,” he said.

However, the workshop would end today.

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