ECOWAS integration must focus on women traders – Entrepreneur

Accra, Mrs Lucia Quachey, President of the Ghana Association of Women Entrepreneurs has called for deeper women involvement in the continental and sub-regional integration process.

She said member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would benefit more in terms of revenue collection provided close attention was given to women in the informal sector.

Mrs Quachey was speaking on the topic: Transforming gender imbalances in doing business the ECOWAS way at a two-day national policy dialogue on regional integration issues.

The forum was on the topic: Bringing West African integration home for national development.

She said: Empowering women in the informal cross border trading has a positive multiplier effect on poverty reduction, economic growth, government revenues and employment creation.

The contribution of women in informal sector to national Gross Domestic Product is pegged around 64 per cent of value added in trade in Benin, 46 per cent in Mali, and 41 per cent in Chad, but Mrs Quachey said, Ghana was yet to maximise revenue from its informal sector.

She urged government to give support and build capacity of entrepreneurs in the informal sector, where business women were considered the most productive.

She identified poor work ethics, bureaucracy, time wasting, corruption and extortion at ECOWAS borders as well as poor implementation of policies and enforcement of business laws as some factors that hampered inter-regional integration efforts.

The Centre for Regional Integration in partnership with the African Capacity Building Foundation established the Regional Integration Issues Forum to contribute to national implementation of the ECOWAS agenda and also boost intra-regional trade and development.

Mr James Asare-Adjei, the President of the Association of Ghana Industries, said the sub-regional integration process was struggling with weak export base and an over liberalised economy.

This is because, he said: we cannot synchronize policies with what is happening on the ground.

He cited the prevailing lending rate in Ghana as the key challenge confronting the country.

Statistics show that Ghana occupies the third position in the interest rate ranking among member states.

If Ghana does not position itself now, it faces higher risk of large imports from the sub-region in the future as a result of the Common External Tariff and the upcoming Continental Free Trade Agreement, he said.

The Economic Community of West African States faces a number of challenges including; slow process of economic integration and over-dependence on commodity exports across member states.

The bloc also faces sporadic political instability, nascent and weak capacity of private sector institutions, inadequate involvement of citizens in discussions and goals of ECOWAS.

Despite these challenges, experts say ECOWAS has made significant contribution to the socio-economic and political development of its member states.

They named among other things the visa-free movement of persons across the 15-member countries which is necessary for integration.

Source: Ghana News Agency