WEST AFRICA – The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has in September this year secured over US$1.1 billion in development assistance from the European Union.

According to the EU the funds will be used to support the standardisation of goods and services produced in ECOWAS.

It said the amount was specifically targeted at ensuring that goods produced within the sub-region met the global market standard, particularly for Europe and the Americas.

The EU Project Manager for the West Africa Quality Systems programme, Mr Frank Okafor, revealed that the European body gave the amount at the extended meeting of the steering committee of the WAQSP whose objective was to assess the progress of countries for certification purposes.

Okafor explained that the support of the EU for the project was aimed at promoting and unifying trade within the ECOWAS sub-region as well as to the world markets.

He added that the contribution will be used a period of about 17 years and also included EU’s coordinated efforts with other development partners such as the United States Agency for International Development, Germany among others.

Some of the projects to be implemented under the development assistance program include the West African Competitive Programme at a cost of about US$154.9 million (€140 million), the product quality program at a cost of US$49.56 million (€45 million), and the trade facilitation programme at a cost of 66.08 (€60 million).

ECOWAS is the largest trading bloc with the European accounting for 18 percent of all trade transacted between the European Union and Africa.

The Western Africa economic bloc also accounts for 16 percent of all the imports that the European Union sources from Africa.

The two parties: ECOWAS and EU signed a 20-year economic partnership agreement in 2014 which was set to improve trade between the two nations.

The new development assistance to enable the region improve the standardization of goods and service will contribute towards increasing the capacity of ECOWAS member states to produce goods that meet standards of the European and United States markets.

The project will be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization on behalf of the European Union.

EU and the United States are ECOWAS’ largest export markets accounting for about 52 percent of the region’s total exports.