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Africa needs to develop Mango, Cassava  ICT sectors—ITC

Accra, Sept. 30, GNA – Mr Ruben Poolchund, Chief Officer for Africa at the International Trade Centre (ITC) says there is the need to develop the Mango, Cassava and ICT sectors, given the great potential for value addition and export.  

He said out of 302 million tonnes of cassava globally produced in 2020, more than half was produced in Africa.  

Mr Poolchund was speaking at the launch of the second edition of the West Africa Connect event, in Accra.  

The two-day event being hosted by the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) is to connect suppliers from the region with buyers inside and outside the region in order to promote access to markets opportunities and linkages with global value chains. 

This year’s event is focuses on Mango, Cassava and ICT Value chains, with the objective of providing SMEs across the region with a platform for business engagement, market linkages and commercial exchanges that will serve to promote trade in the region 

He said on the African continent, 52 per cent of total Cassava production was carried out in West Africa, with Nigeria alone accounting for 23.4 per cent of global production.  

He said in the Mango sector, although a significant part of production was not marketed, the ECOWAS Region led as the 7th Mango-exporting origin worldwide, with 90,000 tonnes exported in 2019 and market share of global trade rising up to 5.1 per cent in 2020. 

Mr Poolchund said West Africa also provided a vibrant ecosystem for the development of the ICT sector. 

He said the ECOWAS Rregion had both benefitted and contributed to the significant growth witnessed in the digital space in the past decade. 

The Region has experienced up to 45 per cent additional share of the population using the internet between 2010-2019, with an estimated increase in bandwidth of up to 368 Tbps (Terabit per second) by 2023, allowing for faster and greater interconnectivity with the rest of the world. 

He said the ICT space was important in itself, but also represented an important enabler for the rest of the economy sectors, including agritech.  

He said businesses across the region have begun to embrace digital transformation in the way they trade and carry out operations, and the e-commerce sector was a prime example, with revenues expected to triple to more than €30 billion between 2017–2024.  

He said across all three priority sectors, ITC had conducted a number of studies and initiatives in West Africa and beyond, supporting the promotion of these agric sectors through exports, as well as enabling the creation of a number of tech hubs for ICT SMEs and agritech start-ups, in support of the immense potential in the region. 

More than 140 representatives of financial institutions across the ECOWAS Region have been trained on sustainable finance, in order to better serve the needs of West African SMEs and Business Support Organisations.  

He said ITC wad partnering with the ECOWAS Commission to support the first ECOWAS-wide network for Trade Promotion Organisations, recently established through the assistance of ITC. 

Mr Kolawole A. Sofola, the Acting Director, Trade at ECOWAS Commission, said these four value chain were considered as a transversal value chain that could be used to leverage the transformation and export capacities of the three first value chains. 

He said supporting the promotion of regional value chains and the development of the private sector were key priorities for the ECOWAS Commission.  

He said the Vision 2050 statement of ECOWAS speaks of: “A fully integrated community of peoples, living in a peaceful and prosperous region, with strong institutions and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms striving for inclusive and sustainable development.” 

He said WACOMP and the West Africa Connect 2022 were just illustration of what ECOWAS was doing to promote the private sector and trade in the region.  

The ECOWAS Commission has implemented a number of policies, strategies and institutions to create conditions for a sustainable development and growth in the region.  

 Mr Fakhruddin Azizi, the Industrial Development Officer, Department of Trade Investment and Innovation of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, said the Organisation recognised the key role of the Programme to strengthen the competitiveness of West African countries. 

He said the Programme was also key for improving food security in the region, by modernizing the agribusiness sector and supporting agri-food SMEs to meet the vital needs of the local population. 

“UNIDO acknowledges the important contribution of the WACOMP in supporting the resilience and recovery of West African countries from the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly through digital and innovative initiatives and practices,” he said.