The Building Fair Bridges, West Africa project is designed to support an increase in the uptake of Fair Trade practices in the targeted West African countries : Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast Mali and Togo; enabling producer organizations, especially women, to take full advantage of market opportunities e.g. on the EU market. The project will be carried out by a consortium led by WFTO-Africa (based in Nairobi, Kenya) and including WFTO-Europe (based in Brussels, Belgium) and Fair Trade Lebanon (based in Beirut, Lebanon). Whereas COVID 19 remains a moving target, what is clear is that businesses would have to adapt to a new normal. Businesses – like the Producer Organisations covered in this project – would also require technical support to build resilience and adapt to new market challenges and opportunities in the short and medium terms and to shift their business models to a post COVID 19 world. Among the key challenges are: Environmental challenges and how to encompass environmental standards in trading practices to be more resilient and at the same time competitive into the market; and gender issues and diversification of livelihood securities among and for women in the targeted value chains, as women constitute the majority actors among Fair Trade Producers Organizations in West Africa (over 90%).

The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) currently has members in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali, broadly represented by the following value chains; textile/fashion accessories (including recycled products), home décor, baskets, pottery and wood products, for the handmade category. In the commodity sector, there are mangoes and hibiscus. In addition, the network is already engaged with Producers Organizations in Mali and Benin, and potentially Togo, that are involved in multiple value chains for natural ingredients for food, personal care products and essential oils, which also form part of the target under the project.

WFTO-Europe’s role in this project is mainly to facilitate EU market access of West Africans Producers Organizations. In order to do so, we are working on mapping potential buyers of products from West African producers, to link up producers and buyers. A survey on market demand for products from West Africa in Europe will be carried out as the first step into the market orientation journey of Producers Organizations from West Africa to the European market. Then, WFTO-Europe will help enhance the commercial visibility of West African Fair Trade products in the Northern buyers countries. As part of the measures to further strengthen partnership between the Producers Organizations and European based buyers, WFTO Europe together with WFTO Africa & ME will organize a physical or virtual workshop for Producers Organizations selected by WFTO Africa & ME from West Africa with European buyers during the forthcoming WFTO Global Conference in 2022.