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    JITAP: A Partnership for Trade Development in Africa


    Project Spotlight
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    The new Multilateral Trading System (MTS) that emerged from the Uruguay Round poses significant challenges, but can open up new vistas for trade for African countries. JITAP - the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme - mobilizes the expertise and support of ITC, the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help African country partners benefit from the MTS. JITAP is the first programme that the three organizations have established to deliver jointly a broad range of selected technical assistance inputs to a number of countries simultaneously.

    At present, eight countries participate in JITAP: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Four are LDCs.


    African Trade Ministers, meeting in Tunis in October 1994 under the aegis of the UN Economic Commission of Africa (ECA), called on the international community to help strengthen their capacity to:

    • participate in the WTO;

    • integrate into the new MTS;

    • take advantage of new trade opportunities arising from the globalization of world markets.

    Following the meeting of African ministers in Tunis, WTO's then-Director General, Mr. Renato Ruggiero, and ITC's Executive Director, Mr. J. Denis Bélisle, visited African countries to meet with heads of state, key government ministers and with the private sector. Officials in these countries stressed the need for trade-related technical assistance.

    During the UNCTAD IX conference in Midrand, South Africa, in May 1996, the heads of ITC, UNCTAD and WTO announced their commitment to develop a joint programme to help meet the needs expressed by African countries. ITC, UNCTAD and WTO consequently carried out a thorough needs assessment in the eight partner countries during 1996-97. Jointly they identified priority needs and prepared national technical assistance projects to meet these needs.

    Critical needs were similar in all countries, as were the programme activities that addressed them. When in March 1998 the three organizations set up with donors a Common Trust Fund to mobilize donor support, the individual projects were transformed into the JITAP programme and implementation was initiated. Today, thirteen donors contribute to the Common Trust Fund. The total cost of the programme amounts to about US $10 million.

    Meeting the needs of partner countries 

    JITAP enhances development opportunities of African country partners, through their more effective participation in the MTS. Its activities aim to meet the most pressing needs of the eight countries, corresponding to the needs expressed at the Tunis ministerial meeting. JITAP's immediate objectives are to:

    • build national capacity to understand the evolving MTS and its implications for external trade;

    • adapt the national trading system to the obligations and disciplines of the new MTS;

    • seek maximum advantage from the new MTS by enhancing the readiness of exporters.

    Implementation and management 

    Coordination among participating institutions is promoted through National Steering Committees. Technical counterparts in each country carry out implementation of JITAP projects within this framework. A national focal point is identified in the ministry responsible for international trade. Typical counterparts include the Directorate for International Trade at the Ministry of Commerce, trade promotion organizations, chambers of commerce and industry, local academic institutions and private sector and business development organizations.

    In Geneva, a steering group comprising senior representatives from ITC, UNCTAD and WTO, the donors and partner countries provides guidance for the JITAP programme. Day-to-day management is handled by designated focal point officers at ITC, UNCTAD, and WTO working in close cooperation.

    Two Regional Coordinators, one based in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire for the four West African countries, and the other in Kampala, Uganda for the three East African countries, coordinate technical inputs and assist individual countries in implementing activities, facilitating interaction between Geneva and the participating countries.

    Key JITAP features 

    JITAP is first and foremost a capacity-building programme. Its distinctive features are:

    • joint participation of the three Geneva organizations in the full extent of needs assessment and programme implementation.

    • an Internet-based Communication and Discussion Facility that enhances networking among partner countries, as well as between them and the Geneva-based organizations.

    • a single or generic programme with selected activities to address critical common needs, based on individual country needs and responses.

    • organization of scores of implementation actions in clusters of programme elements, with each cluster covering all partner countries.

    • simultaneous implementation across all eight countries, cluster-by-cluster.

    These features enhance synergies among partner countries; among the Geneva-based organizations; between partner countries and Geneva; and between and among programme activities. They are also designed to ensure efficient use of resources, through economies of scale in management and programme implementation; sustainability through networking and other capacity-building features; and replicability of the JITAP programme in other countries if the programme is expanded.

    Programme clusters 

    In order to optimize resources, JITAP organizes its generic activities into clusters and adapts them to the individual needs of each country.

    In particular, the programme strengthens capacity to understand the MTS and its implications through two clusters. The first one supports a national coordination mechanism to handle WTO-related issues and helps build up the knowledge base on the MTS in each country.

    The second one examines the impact of the MTS on the national economies and provides guidance for strategies to benefit from the new trading opportunities.

    Two additional clusters address the need for conforming to the MTS. They provide information and technical assistance to customs valuation methodology as well as advice on adjustment to trade laws and regulations.

    The programme also has a direct impact on exporting enterprises. At the strategic level, it analyses trade prospects of each country in detail, while providing support for formulating sectoral and product strategies. At the operational level, it provides technical cooperation in trade information, quality management, export finance and other key areas of interest for enterprises engaged in exporting activities.

    Finally, JITAP ensures the long-term sustainability of the capacity built under the programme. To achieve this goal, activities include setting up Reference Centres for business, academic and official use and fostering a network of trainers and experts on the MTS. The programme provides training material while enhancing the necessary skills for human resource development.

    Bringing partners together 

    In responding to the challenge of realising the vast potential for synergies among the hundreds of partners involved in the programme, JITAP has developed a Communication and Discussion Facility (CDF). This Internet-based solution allows for cost-effective communication ranging from on-line discussions and implementation updates, to the exchange of relevant documentation. The CDF also makes available programme-related information to the general public.

    Implementation progress 

    Programme implementation began less than a year ago and JITAP has begun to make substantial progress towards its goals. Progress to-date includes:

    • setting up management and coordination mechanisms;

    • organizing subregional technical workshops and courses on MTS for trainers;

    • nearly completing MTS impact studies;

    • preparing matrices of exportable products for all countries; and

    • developing a prototype for the Communication and Discussion Facility.

    This new partnership among ITC, UNCTAD, WTO and the eight participating countries thus constitutes a solid vehicle to provide support to African countries to seize the vast opportunities afforded by the new Multilateral Trading System.

    For more information, see the CDF web site (http://www.jitap.org) or contact A. Ben Fadhl, Senior Trade Promotion Adviser at benfadhl@intracen.org