Africa needs to develop mango, cassava, ICT sectors – ITC

The African continent need to develop the Mango, Cassava and ICT sectors, given the great potential for value addition and export, said  Ruben Poolchund, Chief Officer for Africa at the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Speaking  at the launch of the second edition of the West Africa Connect event, in Accra, he said out of 302 million tonnes of cassava globally produced in 2020, more than half was produced in Africa. 

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

This year’s event 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 the production was not marketed, the ECOWAS Region led as the 7th Mango-exporting origin worldwide, with 90,000 tonnes exported in 2019 and the market share of global trade rising up to 5.1 per cent in 2020.

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

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