Friday, September 17, 2021

Network Engages 35 Gambian Journalists on ECOWAS Protocol, ACFTA

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By Mustapha Jallow

Officials of the Network of Financial and Tax Reporters (NFTR) Gambia Chapter in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment on Monday engaged 35 media practitioners on the ECOWAS protocol and African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA).

Organised by NFTR with support from the ECOWAS National Office in Banjul through the trade ministry, the 35 journalists who were also members of the network, were trained on issues of accuracy reporting on the issues hindering Gambian cross-borders, especially on the free movement of goods and people within the corridor of the West Africa region.  

The objective of the day-long training was to accord journalists the opportunity to have an in-depth knowledge on the ECOWAS protocols and its treaties in order to effectively and efficiently report on issues affecting “our cross borders.’’

It was also aimed at providing Gambian journalists critical understanding of the role of the media in the promotion of regional integration within the sub-region.  

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“There is need for awareness creation on the ECOWAS legal instruments. {As} journalists, one of the fundamental factors affecting our effectiveness is lack of capacity building,’’ said Mr Abdoulie Nyockeh, the President of the aforesaid network while delivering his opening statement.

Nyockeh said the participants will be equipped with the requisite information to enable them to report accurately on cross border issues and so on. He said this interface will also build their skills in reporting on taxation, business and finance. He explained that since the formation of the network in 2019, it has implemented 9 activities, describing it as a big achievement for the network.

“Supporting and empowering the media is crucial in the country’s development aspiration,’’ he said.

The network’s vision, he said, is to equip and enhance the competence of Gambian journalists through capacity building to ensure they become more responsible.

Mr. Ebrima Sisawo, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Trade, told the participants that the training was timely as it gave them the opportunity to interact with experts who will share with them information around regional integration, protocols and existing arrangements.

“Our contribution to international trade is very minimal, just around 3 (%) percent. I think the performance is very low and it is only through this regional integration that we can out-perform. We need to trade among ourselves much more than it is happening right now,’’ said Mr Sisawo.

“The rate at which we are trading among ourselves is also very low. Is about 18 (%) percent. If you compare that to Asia, it is about 55 (%) percent. So, your role as media practitioners is very important because people need to know what is out there for them, especially in a business environment. There are lot of opportunities as far as regional integration is concerned, but you cannot take advantage of an opportunity if you do not know what is there for you.’’

Mr Sisawo assured the network that they will continue to work with them closely in providing them more capacity building opportunities. He said one of their biggest objectives is to create more awareness, saying they cannot create this awareness without the media.

For his part, Muhammed M.S Bah, the Vice President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) who doubled as Assistant Editor of Foroyaa newspaper, described the ECOWAS protocols and ACFTA as key issues that media personnel should know and help the public to understand as well as hold duty bearers accountable.

He added that these are instruments that are signed on behalf of Gambians by “our duty barriers.’’

According to him, it’s 42 years since the inception of the ECOWAS protocol.

GPU vice president shared his hope with the participants that after the day-long training, they will intensively engage the government on how far they have gone in implementing the Ecowas protocol and ACFTA.

Bah commended the network for coming up with the training and also urged them to have a monitoring mechanism in order to hold “yourself and members to account.”

Alhagie Jeng, Executive Secretary of the Gambia Bankers Association, told journalists to report more on financial. He advised them to engage experts on the areas they want to report on.

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