*By Paul Ejime
Regional non-state actors in West Africa began a three-day workshop in Dakar, Senegal on Thursday to equip civil society organisations (CSOs) and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with effective tools and skills for people-oriented advocacy activities to influence ECOWAS policies and protocols on trade and free movement, especially for the benefit of the most vulnerable.
The 25-27 November 2021 Workshop, which is part of the activities of the Trade Facilitation West Africa (TFWA) Project, seeks to strengthen the voices of civil society organisations in the dialogue and stakeholder engagements for trade facilitation.
The TFWA project is a multi-donor initiative supported by the USAID, the Government of the Netherlands, the European Union and the German Development Cooperation. It is managed by the World Bank Group and the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ) on behalf of ECOWAS and West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).
In his opening address Dr Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, Director of the Dakar-based African Centre for Trade, Integration and Development, ENDA-CACID, explained that CSOs play a crucial role in the development and integration processes in the ECOWAS region.
“They are involved, at regional and national levels, in the design and implementation of sectorial policies including trade, agriculture, industrial policies as well as issues related to migration, gender, food security, women empowerment and youth employment, among others,” he added.
Dr Dieye later made a presentation on the Introduction to the advocacy cycle, process, steps, techniques and outcomes.
For advocacy to be effective and impactful, he stressed the need for sound knowledge and identification of problem areas, strategic choices, planning, mobilization of funds, awareness creation and mobilization of the relevant stakeholders and public opinion.
Maiko Miyake, of the World Bank, reiterated the continued support of the Bank to regional integration projects, including through cooperation with development partners for trade facilitation. She called for the diligent implementation of various regional instruments for the enhancement of the olume and value of trade.
In his presentation on Strategies for political engagement and influence in advocacy, Dr Ken Ukaoha, President of the National Association of Nigeria Traders (NANTS), urged CSOs and NGOs, to show greater interests in the on-going institutional reforms within ECOWAS, including through active advocacy to the Authority of Heads of State and Governments for transformational changes.
He stressed that advocacy without active support or actions would not yield the desired outcome, and therefore urged CSOs and NGOs to recalibrate their advocacy strategies and persevere until success is achieved.
Dr Aurelien Atidegla, a management expert underscored the importance of collection and use of research data and evidence in advocacy. He noted that the triangulation and complementarity of qualitative and quantitative as well as primary and secondary data were imperative in strengthening advocacy strategies.
In their address of welcome, Col Samba Souna Fall of the Senegal National Committee on Trade Facilitation and Adja Coumba Sall Fall from the ECOWAS National Office stressed the need for the strong involvement of non-state actors in regional trade and integration programmes and activities.
The Dakar regional workshop is expected to provide regional CSOs with basic knowledge on advocacy and influencing techniques for trade facilitation and also equip them with basic elements of ECOWAS texts on trade and free movement of people, goods and services.
*Paul Ejime is an independent Consultant to International Organizations on Strategic Communications, Advocacy, Media, Peace & Security, Elections and a Global Affairs Analyst.