Ambassador Gene A. Cretz Remarks – Food Across Borders Program Launch

Honorable ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Dr. Lapodini Marc Atouga;

Honorable ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs, Free Movement of Persons, and Tourism, Ahmed Hamid;

Honorable ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, Kalilou Traoré;

Honorable Executive Secretary of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, Dr. Djime Adoum;

Honorable Ghana Minister of Food and Agriculture, Fifi Kwetey;

Representatives of West African governments;

Representatives of the media, private sector and civil society;

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;

We are here this morning to build on the effort we began together at the Food Across Borders Forum in January of 2013 to draw attention to the crucial role that regional trade plays in West Africa’s food security, and the increasingly important role regional trade will need to play to ensure the long-term resilience of the 365 million residents of West Africa. I had the honor of attending that 2013 forum and I am very pleased that the forum’s recommendations have evolved into the ECOWAS Food Across Borders Program, or ProFAB.

I understand that ProFAB is truly a cooperative effort. Supported by USAID, it is an ECOWAS and West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) program, which the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) will implement, and which will be coordinated and facilitated by a special unit based at Hub Rural. Other civil society and producer organizations, including the Borderless Alliance and the Environmental Development Action in the Third World – African Center for Trade, Integration and Development (ENDA-CACID), will have key roles.

USAID’s West Africa Trade Hub and Partners network will work hand-in-hand with ProFAB. I am truly pleased that the continuing cooperation among all these partners has brought us to today’s launch of ProFAB.

The U.S. Government is proud to support West Africans as you move forward on your regional integration agenda and take actions to increase the food security and well-being of the people in this region. To that end, we support regional and country-level efforts to advance economic growth and resilience. We know the main barriers to cross-border trade include constraints like road harassment, export restrictions, certificates of origin, veterinary certificates and value added taxes on foodstuffs, as well as the often cumbersome procedures at the border posts themselves. We are happy to support ProFAB in its effort to accelerate the harmonization and implementation of ECOWAS economic policies that remove trade barriers.

For example, the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme and the recent launch of the Common External Tariff by ECOWAS member states are both major steps towards economic integration in the sub-region.

When regional policies are adopted by ECOWAS, they already have the blessing of each country at the ministerial or Head of State levels. Now it is up to each country to implement and harmonize these policies, which will set a solid foundation for increasing trade and advancing economic growth.

By advancing the implementation of ECOWAS trade policies, ProFAB’s work will make it easier for farmers and business people to complete the transactions necessary to move food across borders.  It will increase the volume, value and speed of food movements, make it easier for the private sector to invest, and increase the efficiency of the marketplace.

ProFAB is framed by, and will contribute to, wider regional efforts. ECOWAS is moving forward in updating its ECOWAP—the ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Policy—to reflect new targets, such as those agreed on by African Heads of State at Malabo, including the goal of tripling agricultural trade on the continent and creating a continent-wide free trade area. ECOWAS is paving the way to build mutual accountability and advance the 2025 vision of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. In fact, ECOWAS will carry out the first region-wide Joint Sector Review later this year, which will bring key stakeholders to the table to make commitments that they will review on an annual basis to hold each other accountable for progress. These processes will feed into the biennial reviews called for by the Malabo Declaration to inform the annual African Heads of State summits.

In closing, let me thank the Government of Ghana for hosting this launch. I understand that Ghana is closely examining barriers along its own trade corridors, with a view to eliminating unnecessary checkpoints and police stops. I applaud this effort and I urge the Government of Ghana to continue to take steps that reduce the time and cost of transiting Ghana’s highways to facilitate a smoother flows of goods from the inland countries to the coast and vice versa.

I would also like to thank ECOWAS for its leadership and close collaboration with the U.S. Government over the years, including the organization of this conference. The West African Economic and Monetary Union and the Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel are equal partners in this endeavor and I thank them for their participation and leadership as well. Appreciation also goes to Hub Rural which is coordinating ProFAB on behalf of all stakeholders.

Finally let me thank the representatives of the many countries who are here, as well as the private sector and civil society representatives, for your interest and involvement.

I wish you success in realizing the goals of the Food Across Borders Program!