21st March 2014
Trade and investment flows between Europe and West African countries are to be enhanced following a deal announced by the European Commission (EC).
Some €6.5 billion has been earmarked to support the Economic Partnership Agreement Development Program (PAPED) for West Africa during the period 2015-2020. Easing restrictions on cross-border trade, the deal is designed to support not only business transactions but also development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction in Africa.
The funding will boost projects linked to trade, industry, transport and energy infrastructure in the region.
EC policy makers say the EPA represents a “new kind” of relationship with West Africa. While it is a trade agreement, it also has a specific development objective. The idea is to strengthen West African economies by supporting the production and export of a wider range of goods. It is also hoped that the agreement will enhance trade between the countries in the region, which include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Mauritania.
Andris Piebalgs, commissioner for development policy, commented: "[The] EU's commitment responds to the needs expressed by West Africa and will allow the region to take advantage of all the opportunities of the Economic Partnership Agreement.
“The implementation of the EPA will be instrumental in creating favourable conditions to boost trade in the region and stimulate growth and job creation. The development of the region will also contribute to increase peace and stability in West Africa."
In February it was announced that the EU had reached a landmark €42 billion-a-year free trade agreement with West African nations. It will offer long-term duty and quota-free access to European markets for West African nations, eclipsing existing bilateral agreements with Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.
“We are very satisfied with the progress at expert level achieved during the negotiations in Dakar in January,” John Clancy, the EU’s trade spokesman told EurActiv. Under this agreement, African states will liberalise 75 per cent of trade over 20 years.