Using regional value chains as an export diversification strategy: The WAEMU case

Opening address
Dakar, 11 October 2021

His Excellency, Eloi LAOUROU, Senior Adviser to the WTO Director-General
Madam Aminata Assome Diatta, Minister for Trade and SMEs, Senegal,
Madam Malado Kaba, Former Minister of the Economy and Finance, Guinea,
Mr Etienne Oudot de Dainville, Permanent Delegate of France to the WTO,
Professor Charlemagne Babatoundé Igué, WTO Chair,
Professor Ahmadou Aly Mbaye, Chancellor, University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar, WTO Chair,
Mr. Matthieu Fau-Nougaret, Scientific Cooperation and Cultural Attaché to the French Embassy in Senegal,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, allow me to convey the warm greetings of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was unable to join us today for this important event due to previous engagements. She wishes to thank the Chancellor of the Cheikh Anta Diop University sincerely for his kind invitation, and welcomes each and every one of you to this conference organized under the aegis of the WTO Chairs Programme.

I also wish to thank the Minister for Trade and SMEs of Senegal, Ms Aminata Assome Diatta, for honouring us with her presence. Let me seize this opportunity to underscore Senegal's major contribution to strengthening international cooperation and the multilateral trading system.

I am particularly pleased to note that this conference is taking place in hybrid mode — both in-person and virtual — and that it is dealing with a central issue, that of integrating the WEAMU economies into regional and global value chains, as well as the importance of these trade flows for supporting production and export diversification strategies.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

The WTO Chairs Programme (WCP) aims to support and promote trade-related research and academic activities conducted by universities and tertiary education institutions in developing and least developed countries. In 2009, WTO Chairs were assigned to 14 universities, including the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar (UCAD). Seven other centres, including the Abomey Calavi University in Benin, joined the Programme in May 2014 following a very competitive call for candidatures. The third phase of the Programme, which will broaden this academic network, has been launched, and the selection process is underway. 

I followed mainly the activities of the Chair of Benin, and others, such as the UCAD Chair, in my previous functions, and was able to gauge the impact and added value of such a capacity-building programme in supporting knowledge creation and management in the service of effective trade and inclusive development policy formulation.

In the same vein, I can attest to the fact that several applied works conducted by the WTO Chair of Benin have facilitated my country's trade vision and strategy, and I am particularly honoured to be here with you for this ceremony.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

We are meeting at a crucial moment. Who would have ever thought that the entire global economy would have experienced such turmoil? The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant consequences on food security and has reminded us of the importance of multilateral cooperation for identifying coordinated and effective solutions in the service of our nations.

In terms of trade, the COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted the stability of the global economy, including that of Africa, as well as production and consumption patterns.

Developing and especially least developed countries have borne the full brunt of the consequences of the pandemic.  In addition to the devastating consequences of the health situation on people, their economies have been hit hard and have slowed down. This slowing of global growth and successive lockdowns have also had widescale socioeconomic effects on all sectors of the economy.

Supply in several industrial and agricultural sectors has slowed down, and the integration of these economies into regional and global value chains has also been affected. Many jobs have been destroyed and the health restrictions imposed to save lives have impacted our social and economic models. Let me remind you that the estimates of UNECA economists have demonstrated that the cost of a full month of lockdown in Africa is US$ 65 billion or 2.5% of the continent's annual GDP. We also note that the social cost of this crisis is exorbitant, as it deepens poverty and vulnerability. Achieving herd immunity will also numb the pain of the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This crisis has had a heavy toll on the public finances of several countries and underlies the issue of resource mobilization at the regional and international levels. At this juncture I would like to single out Ms. Malado Kaba, Former Minister of the Economy and Finance of Guinea.

By way of example, African economies experienced  a considerable fall in foreign direct investment (FDI). According to UNCTAD, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a drop of 16% of FDI, which fell from US$ 47 billion in 2019 to US$ 40 billion in 2020

Nevertheless, in terms of global trade, recovery has begun, and interesting initiatives have been launched, such as the development of e-commerce. The latest WTO figures estimate a growth rate of 10.8%, followed by an increase of 4.7% in 2022. Furthermore, thanks to the Aid for Trade initiative, the WTO facilitated support for growth and poverty reduction and at the most recent review held in March 2021, sector-wide and overall measures were identified to ensure robust and inclusive recovery.

This trend, however, remains very erratic and changeable. It is clear that achieving immunity through vaccination remains a key issue for supporting recovery in the long term throughout the world, which is why access to vaccines for all countries, especially the least developed ones, remains a sine qua non.

I would like to underscore here that implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will also help to strengthen the multilateral trading system as a stronger Africa means a more solid multilateral system. Developing strong regional value chains that support growth in Africa will create opportunities for the whole global economy. Therefore, identifying continental value chains that create opportunities and generate growth is also an important aspect of development. This would entail, among other prerequisites, achievement of the objectives of trade facilitation, promotion of innovation and digital applications in different sectors of economic and social life, the green economy and adapting to climate change, women's empowerment, youth employment, and the list goes on. All of these will be part of regional and international value chains in which strong and resilient economies should be built.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

This crisis also underscores the need to contain restrictions that penalize the import of inputs needed both to provide medical care to people and to support growth and thus the wellbeing of nations. Against this backdrop, your conference and your applied research are most welcome and will help shape this thinking.  They will help to demonstrate how maintaining and accessing regional and international markets are drivers and pillars of economic recovery that will ensure greater resilience. Keeping value chains open, as well as instruments and tools that support them, will enable access to all intermediate goods and products that are often necessary to develop and boost employment-generating industrial sectors within WAEMU and ECOWAS. Lastly, they will help to consolidate the fundamentals for a more inclusive and resilient economic recovery.

Several sectors, such as the cotton sector, are equally important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and I am convinced that your research will help to identify those promising sectors that can play a dynamic, structural role for the economies of the region in the service of our nations.  I mentioned cotton as 7 October was World Cotton Day and it was commemorated both at the WTO and throughout the world. The cotton value chain is a major development issue for WAEMU countries. But I could just as well mention other sectors such as agricultural products, industrial processing or services.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to highlight an important initiative of the Senegalese Government in collaboration with other technical partners and international donors: one aimed at developing production capacity in the area of pharmaceuticals and the treatment of COVID-19. These localized initiatives help develop regional value chains for pharmaceuticals and medical products and will thus enable countries in the region to access medicines and other vaccines. One of the many lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis is to plan ahead to prevent future crises and meet the needs of people so as to ensure that no-one is left behind.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to single out among the participants His Excellency Etienne Oudot de Dainville, Permanent Delegate of France to the WTO, and Mr. Matthieu Fau-Nougaret, Scientific Cooperation and Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of France in Senegal. France is providing financial support for this research programme, co-led by the two Chairs, and I wish to express my appreciation to France for its renewed support for technical training and cooperation activities offered by the WTO in general, and by the WTO Chairs Programme in particular.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to congratulate once again the Chairs of Benin and Senegal for launching this research project and these training workshops. I also wish to thank the Senegalese authorities for their support and all the participants at this conference. I wish you a successful meeting. Thank you for your attention.




Problems viewing this page? If so, please contact [email protected] giving details of the operating system and web browser you are using.