• The EIF National Implementation Unit (NIU) played a central role in the Government of Comoros’ negotiation of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union within the framework of the East and Southern Africa group, leveraging EUR 6 million to produce consumer goods for the local, regional and international markets.
  • Comoros acceded to the WTO at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference in February 2024, with support from the EIF throughout its accession journey.
  • An eco-tourism strategy developed with support from the EIF is bringing together tourism promotion, protection of the archipelago’s unique and fragile ecosystem, job creation and income for local communities. This has led to an increase in local, international and diaspora visitors.
  • Youth entrepreneurship has been boosted through an EIF, France and MECK (Mutuelle d'Epargne et de Crédit ya Komor) Moroni initiative that challenges young people to establish their own businesses, helping them to do so by building their skills and providing microfinance.
  • The NIU is highly integrated in the Ministry of Economy and Trade, with the Government further demonstrating its support and ownership of the partnership with the EIF by providing in-kind support for the NIU’s operations, including salaries and office space. Of the 13 staff, 10 are civil servants. 

With a population of nearly 837,000 people (2022), the Union of Comoros’ economy relies mainly on tourism and the export of cloves, vanilla and ylang-ylang. The densely populated archipelago was devastated by 2019’s Cyclone Kenneth, which destroyed 80% of the crops. It suffered another setback the following year, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe. Both events had significant impacts on the agriculture and tourism sectors. The islands’ climate vulnerability is a key consideration in its development plans, including protecting its fragile biodiversity. 

Since beginning its partnership with the Government of the Union of Comoros in 2011, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) has provided around USD 7.4 million in funding – a significant proportion of the total average of USD 40 million in Aid for Trade (AfT) from various partners between 2008 and 2019. The EIF also contributed to increased AfT from other development partners, helping to finance 18 priority areas identified by the Government's Medium-Term Plan for Trade Integration for Comoros (2012-2015) and within the framework of the island's Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 2010-2014 (DSRP). This was achieved through a multi-donor roundtable organized by the Government through the NIU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and with the support of France as the donor facilitator. 

DTIS and NIU success factors

A government-owned and EIF-supported 2007 Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS), conducted by UNDP, brought together a range of stakeholders as part of the consultation process. Among these were the Comoros Union of Chambers of Commerce of Industry and Agriculture (UCCIA), the Comoros National Fisheries Company, producers’ associations – including young farmers – and several exporters and consumers’ associations. The findings of the DTIS were integrated into the DSRP 2010-14, the Medium-Term Plan for Trade Integration, the Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy (SCA2D 2018-2021), and the Emerging Comoros Plan 2030 (PCE 2030). The DTIS was updated in 2015 to include the private, tourism and fisheries sectors, aligning with SCA2D and the PCE. 

The NIU was formally integrated into the Ministry of Economy and Trade by an executive order. Its mandate went beyond implementing EIF projects and towards the mobilization, coordination and monitoring of AfT. The Ministry provides in-kind support for NIU operations, including the payment of salaries and office space. Of the 13 NIU staff members, 10 are civil servants, an indication of the Government’s support and ownership of the NIU. The integration of the NIU into the Ministry, its extensive AfT mandate and staffing hold promise for its sustainability beyond EIF support. 

The NIU played an important role in the development of several policies as a follow-up to the Medium-Term Plan for Trade Integration. These include a Trade Policy paper in 2013, with support from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and UNDP, technical support through the NIU for the elaboration of the country’s Agricultural Strategy in 2016, and financial support for the development of the Industrial Strategy in 2017. The NIU also provided technical support to develop the National Tourism Development Support Strategy (2019-2035), which is designed to improve Comoros’ attractiveness as a tourism destination and increase revenue. 

The EIF–Government of Comoros partnership facilitated the integration of trade into legislation, including the Law of Competition, the Food and Plant Protection Act, the Maritime and Tourism Codes, and draft laws governing foreign trade and investment. The implementation of reforms – such as establishing a Commercial Court, holding a public–private dialogue in 2020, and creating the Export Promotion Support Service (CAPEX) by the UCCIA – have led to an improved trade environment. The CAPEX provides support and services to Comorian producers and exporters throughout the value chain. 

Among the NIU’s responsibilities is the dissemination of news and information on trade-related matters. In 2019, the Unit established an electronic platform and monthly e-newsletter guided by the Ministry of Economy and Trade’s communication strategy. 

Inroads to the global trade table

Comoros has been working towards accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 9 October 2007, when it first established a working party for this purpose. After years of dedicated efforts and progress, including its tenth meeting in January 2024, Comoros achieved this major milestone by successfully acceding to the WTO at the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Abu Dhabi in February 2024. 

The EIF has provided support to Comoros throughout its WTO accession journey. This support has included training workshops; development of analytical documents, reports and studies; participation in the accession working party meetings in Geneva, and assistance to the Geneva-based Permanent Mission to help the Government in its negotiations. 

On the occasion of the celebration of Comoros's accession to the WTO, Ahmed Ali Bazi, Minister of Economy, Industry, and Investments of the Union of the Comoros, said: 

The support of the EIF [to Comoros's WTO accession] has been special for two reasons. First, [it] has been sustained. Second, it spanned the entire process, from identifying the required documents to bringing national regulations into line with WTO rules, as well as preparing for and participating in the Working Party meetings in Geneva.

The EIF has also provided support for negotiations at the regional level for the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, which Comoros has signed and ratified; the Southern African Development Community (SADC); and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa.

Fragrant harvests are boosting trade

Locally, the EIF has provided support to the horticultural sectors of vanilla, ylang-ylang and clove at the producer, processor and institutional levels. The horticulture sector support was coordinated by the NIU and implemented by UNDP and the International Trade Centre (ITC). UNDP and ITC each contributed an additional USD 100 000, with the Government’s in-kind contribution of USD 200 000 further boosting the budget. In addition, the NIU supported the mobilization of USD 375 000 from the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation through the Aid for Trade Initiative for the Arab States (AfTIAS) for the construction and the operationalization of a vanilla processing, storage and marketing center.

The horticultural sector support initiative’s prioritizes private sector development. It successfully organized producers into 19 cooperatives and a union of ylang-ylang cooperatives. Cooperatives received support to strengthen management and negotiation skills, along with access to finance at preferential rates. Capacity was strengthened in production and preparation of the three products, while 1,178 producers benefitted from lesson exchange visits between different high-production regions. Thirty (30) cooperatives on each island were trained on how to establish vanilla nurseries and care for seedlings and vines. 

The NIU’s demonstrated skills in facilitating and coordinating projects also led to its selection for a coordination role in the European Union’s EUR 6 million Support Programme for Production, Industrialization and Free Trade in Comoros (APILE). Implemented by technical partners, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and ITC, the programme seeks to enhance the quality of Comorian products for sale to European and regional markets under the EU/SADC Economic Partnership Agreement, which Comoros ratified in 2019. The programme is expected to promote growth and employment in Comoros. 

The NIU was allocated an additional EUR 300 000 budget to manage the project, and organize and finance steering and technical committee meetings, where technical partners present information on implementation progress, and selection of and direct support to companies. 

Daring youth securing the future

Subuti, a word meaning "to dare" in the local language of Comoros, represents one half of a youth entrepreneurship project established through a partnership between the EIF, the Embassy of France, the University of Comoros Institute of Technology, the Chamber of Commerce and MECK Moroni, a microfinance institution. The project is a critical intervention in a country where 53% of the population is under 20 years of age. The EIF and the French Embassy have each contributed USD 30 000 each to the project, with MECK Moroni providing credit funds amounting to USD 120 000. According to Halidi Ali Omar, who is responsible for monitoring and evaluation at the NIU: 

What we do is enable young people to take out loans at the preferential sliding-scale rate of 7%, while in local practice, the rate often exceeds the 14% ceiling set by the Ministry of Finance. Those who repay allow us to finance others, and so on. So it's all about sustainability.

The University and the Chamber of Commerce provide technical skills support to the entrepreneurs.

Subuti is the last phase of the project, where selected young entrepreneurs are helped to position themselves in the international market. The project builds their capacity in value addition, packaging and ensuring their products meet high international standards. Some ylang-ylang, moringa and clove producers are transforming their crops into soaps and cosmetics, among other goods. 

The model has been replicated under the AfTIAS programme and has been linked to the above-mentioned APILE project to help scale up and improve quality.

Eco-tourism package deal delivers jobs and environmental protection 

The EIF is also supporting eco-tourism to create jobs, recover from COVID-19 impacts and, in the process, increase community incomes. The focus is on strengthening governance, tourism promotion and the supply of domestic products to the sector, especially from rural communities living alongside protected areas. With funding of about USD 1.7 million from the EIF, the Government is constructing eco-lodges on two of the islands that will be managed by locals. Additionally, in support of capacity-building for sustainable tourism, the NIU has obtained funding of USD 250,000 from the AfTIAS 2.0 for a South-South cooperation project with Morocco. This project is anticipated to further enrich the tourism sector.

A Tourism Marketing Strategy to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 has been instrumental to the National Tourism Office’s (ONT)’s programming by shifting focus to the domestic and diaspora markets. It also places greater emphasis on eco-tourism, with vanilla and ylang-ylang as the main attractions. This is accompanied by outdoor adventure activities, which fit health protocols during COVID-19, along with gastronomic packages and cultural site visits. The Tourism Marketing Strategy specifically also identifies Mohéli as an eco-tourism hub, Grande Comore as a prime destination for beach tourism, and Mount Karthala on Grande Comore as an ideal spot for adventure tourism. Central to the sector’s strategy are local people acquiring better skills in showcasing their cultural heritage and environmental considerations. The initiative is supporting young people to earn an income by making and selling recycled products, medicinal plants and collecting garbage, which in turn contributes to preserving the fragile island ecology. 

The EIF and the ONT organized the first and second editions of the Tourism Week in 2021 and 2022, aimed at promoting tourism under the Tourism Marketing Strategy. These events attracted more than a thousand visitors and 152 exhibitors. As Azali Said Ahmed, Communications and Marketing Director of Ecotourism House Ngazidja, told the EIF in 2021:

We will target the Comorian diaspora populations who will return to Comoros for holidays such as Easter. We want to organize activities with the young diasporas to help them discover their country.

The EIF also supported the ONT's participation at international trade shows in Madrid, Paris and Dubai.

The eco-tourism initiative works hand in hand with the French Development Agency-supported Moheli Marine Park and the UNDP-supported national network of protected land and marine areas on the three islands. 

Catalysts for sustainability

The DTIS Update and the EIF's interventions at the policy and local levels have played an important role in spurring pro-poor trade and garnering new support for Comoros from other partners. This, together with the integration of the NIU into government systems and the capacity built in the unit to successfully leverage resources from the international community, demonstrates growing confidence among funding partners. These are positive signs that AfT and other support will continue to flow into the archipelago, contributing to sustaining its fragile and unique ecosystem and its people beyond EIF support. 

_ _ _

As the second phase of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) comes to an end in 2024, the objective is to produce a catalogue of impact stories showcasing the efforts of the EIF partnership in the least developed countries (LDCs) and recently graduated LDCs where it has been actively engaged. This impact story makes up one of the stories in the catalogue. Essential input and reviews were received from the country‑based EIF National Implementation Units (NIUs) and the wider EIF team. 

The primary objective of each impact story, as well as the entire catalogue, is to adopt a journalistic approach in recounting the EIF's engagement in the LDCs during both Phase One and Two. The aim is to offer valuable insights and to document outcomes and impacts, as well as some lessons learned from the work of the EIF partnership in the LDCs. These stories do not provide a comprehensive overview of every aspect of EIF partnership engagement such as precise timelines or the exact extent of involvement (i.e., financial contributions). Instead, they serve as one of several means of information about the work of the EIF partnership. Interested readers are encouraged to supplement these impact stories by consulting other sources, including EIF Annual Reports, Trade for Development News articles, EIF social media channels, and, where applicable, the NIUs in the LDCs as well as the EIF Executive Secretariat.

It is essential to acknowledge that the information provided is neither exhaustive (e.g., it is based on the latest available data at the time of writing in 2023) nor evaluative in nature. 

Lastly, while each impact story adheres to a similar structure, the diverse range of countries, contexts, and EIF engagements means that each story is unique.


Any views and opinions expressed on Trade for Development News are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect those of EIF.