The 2nd WEST AFRICA TRADE & INVESTMENT FORUM (WATIF): Conference and Exhibition with the theme: OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY, VIRTUAL CONNECTIONS AND REGIONAL COOPERATION

The event is scheduled to hold at the prestigious Movenpick Hotel in Accra, Ghana from the 19th to 21st of March, 2019. The Maiden Edition of the Conference and Exhibition (WATIF 2018) took place on 27th March 2018 at the Lagos Continental Hotel. The theme of the event was “Enhancing Collaboration for Regional Development and Economic Impact” with a focus on four major sectors of the economy –  Education & Skills Development, Manufacturing, Agriculture and Information and Communication Technology.

We have introduced the Energy Sector to WATIF 2019 in view of the significant role it plays in powering the operations of all sectors of the economy and the contribution of this sector to our regional GDP, as well as the Health Sector, being a key driver of socio-economic development.

KEY OBJECTIVES

  • To address the gaps in Africa’s regional infrastructure links as it relates to Transportation, Power and ICT networks
  • To seek out ways to resolve the impediments of intra-regional trade in West Africa.
  • To seek out ways in which government agencies can ensure trade policies are developed along the lines of boosting exports to member states.
  • To identify the major constraints to trade and investment in the respective sectors and develop mechanisms to address these constraints.
  • To identify the challenges of funding with regards to trade and investment in West Africa and proffer suggestions;
  • To seek out ways in which the government can assist with access to credit with low interest rates in financing for the export of services.
  • To seek out ways to foster linkages that should exist between private sector participants in the region in order to ensure access to and expansion of markets, the development of intra-regional supply chains, and integrated financial systems that regional cooperation fosters and nurtures.
  • To facilitate the development of the sub region through intercontinental trade and investments by virtual connections, use of technology and Diaspora involvement.

KEY BENEFITS

The West Africa Trade and investment Forum (WATIF 2019): Conference and Exhibition provides you an excellent opportunity to:

  • Become part of an international business network and access investors, advisors and resource persons with a special interest to facilitate safe and successful bilateral trade and investment in Africa. 
  • Learn from Industry experts and be part of the conversation on trade and investment opportunities for Africa, receive insights on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and gain access to FDI lead generation experts
  • Showcase your world-class brand and initiatives to an audience of regional and international Government officials, Industrialists, Indigenous and International Investors, CEOs of Financial Institutions and Multinational Organisations, Donor Agencies, Key Business Stakeholders and ECOWAS Representatives which will in turn translate into greater exposure and visibility for your country.
  • Contribute effectively and positively towards the economic development of our sub-region through the WATIF conference speaking/dialogue sessions
  • Network and engage with regional government agencies and stakeholders.

PROPOSED EVENT STRUCTURE

The 3-day event will consist mainly of keynote addresses, presentations, sector break-out sessions/discussions which will focus on identifying practical opportunities, challenges and recommendations for fostering impactful regional business collaborations/partnerships within each sector, and plenary sessions to present outcomes.   The exhibition will showcase regional and global Educational, ICT, Manufacturing, Agricultural and Allied products, services and brands.

We have introduced the Energy Sector to WATIF 2019 in view of the significant role it plays in powering the operations of all sectors of the economy and the contribution of this sector to our regional GDP, as well as the Health Sector, being a key driver of socio-economic development.

AGRICULTURE

Less than 20% of West Africa’s GDP is obtained from Agriculture and 65% of her population is directly involved in Agriculture. The sector, with proper attention and investment can boost the West Africa Economy with over 1 Billion USD annually. Unfortunately, national policies relating to the commercial sector have paid little attention to regional trade. They have focused on major export crops or the satisfaction of domestic food needs. Reforms have focused on the privatization, deregulation and direct taxation of marketing activities, but such activities continue to be hampered by many pre-liberalization regulations/policies as well as by some of the new measures accompanying the reform process itself. Boosting intra-regional trade in agricultural products can serve as a key factor for inclusive development of countries in West Africa, this can also contribute in the rural areas in reducing inequality and poverty.           

Furthermore, to make progress on regional integration, African countries must overcome the tendency to focus only on their internal capacity and begin to look towards inter/intra-continental collaboration.

INFOMATION & COMMUNICATON TECHNOLOGY

The uptake of ICT in Africa has been hampered by the absence of appropriate regulatory frameworks and the inadequacy of infrastructure. Records have shown that Africa lags behind in the use of modern Information Technology infrastructure which is becoming an increasingly effective tool in the promotion of intra and inter regional trade. As a result of the observed underdevelopment of Africa’s ICT infrastructure, the cost of conducting trade within the continent remains very high compared to other regions.

An executive summary was presented where it was stated that the role of ICT in national development, especially wealth creation, employment generation and poverty reduction cannot be overemphasized. Without any doubt there is direct correlation between socio-economic development and ICT development Index (IDI); more salient is the fact that top ranked countries on the IDI are also top spenders on ICT accounting for close to 15% of yearly expenditure. The factors contributing to high and low performance in IDI value, and to more or less dynamic movement in the rankings, vary between countries. Factors that are particularly important in the case of ranking countries globally are classified into three (3) sections. The availability of ICT infrastructure and access, a high level of ICT usage, and the capability to use ICTs effectively, derived from relevant skills. These are further broken down into 11 subcategories. Africa and by extension its sub regions have consistently fallen behind in global IDI largely due to lack of funding for ICT development, weak and un-coordinated ICT policy which discourages investor and Infrastructural deficit. A conscious effort to turn around these challenges in favour of a more robust policy that liberalises ICT and attract FDI into West Africa is the sure best way to improve on IDI and consequently bring result in ICT as an enabler of social economic development.

ENERGY

Many exporters in Africa report that unreliable power supply is one of the biggest problems affecting their operations, thus this affects intra-regional trade which in turn constitutes a barrier in doing business outside Africa. A sustained effort to develop Africa’s untapped low carbon energy potential is required to ensure these barriers are prohibited.

An important prerequisite to unlock the finance and development potential is the need to establish the legal and regulatory policy and frameworks necessary to support power trading as well as developing effective regulatory bodies to enforce these frameworks.

MANUFACTURING

Despite the need for regional integration, the manufacturing sector in West Africa still suffers setbacks due to some policies that have been put in place. Furthermore, the multiplicity of currencies and cumbersome exchange rate arrangements, non-tariff barriers on exports are some of the enormous challenges posed on manufacturing industries in West Africa. Inadequate infrastructure and lack of necessary institutional, legal and regulatory environments make it difficult to guarantee timely delivery of goods, as well as production of these goods. An elaborate presentation was delivered (focusing on leather manufacturing), on the topic “Sustaining Manufacturing in West Africa” during WATIF 2018. It proffered that over the next 10 years, West Africa would be able to boast of a Billion Dollar worth of economically viable products. The raw materials and a young workforce are readily available. Some key elements were provided as a solid platform for growth in the West African footwear/leather goods industry.

  1. Industrialization
  2. Training
  3. Investment
  4. Processes
  5. Component infrastructure

West Africa as a sub-region, has the right ingredients to compete in the global footwear and leather goods market.

EDUCATON & SKILLS DEVELOPMENT

The issue of skills and competitiveness is inherent through Africa, and is closely associated with the development causes and consequences of labor mobility for individuals and states. To profit from emerging industries such as banking, extractive industries and information and communications technology (ICT), African countries require high-skilled innovative entrepreneurs for economic transformation. Even with entrenched unemployment and underemployment, African economies face labor skills shortages. Further, the workforce is often inadequately educated, and skills shortages in Africa represent the most important labor market issue for investors. It is apparent that economic growth and industrialization in the sub-region is dependent on skills development. It is therefore imperative for the relevant stakeholders (Governments, Industries, Institutions and Parents) to act decisively in order to promote wealth and job creation.

Education & skills development is a panacea for job creation, thus a paradigm shift is necessary in the West African Sub-Region for our goal of Industrialization and global competitiveness to become a reality. Regional integration could be included in each country’s development agenda, legal arrangements as well as at institutional levels.

HEALTH

The importance of health is underscored by the growing attention given to the issue at global and regional levels with its recognition as a key driver of socio-economic development. Regional authorities have come to the realization that many challenges are neglected at the global level, whereas the seriousness of certain health problems such as epidemics are harder to disregard on the regional level since regional players would be immediately affected.

There is a dire need for West Africa to maximise its full potential by using technology to close the gaps in health care, with emphasis on partnerships between public and private health care providers.