The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 March 2013
The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), concluded their meeting in Ivory Coast yesterday. They are calling for a more economically and socially – if not politically integrated West Africa.
But were they all singing from the same hymn sheet?
The reality is that most of the countries of the region are producing very much the same agricultural produce and minerals, making trade – based on diversity, specialisation and economies of scale, somewhat difficult.
What West Africa needs is for each country to begin to process, add value to, and package its own primary produce, for exporting to rich countries outside of the region.
After two days of talks, their main goal must be the penetration of Western and Chinese markets.
By investing in manufacturing and processing plants that can produce quality products for export, West African nations will be able to pay their way out of poverty.
But to continue the post-Nkrumah and Sekou Touré ideology of integration, in an impoverished, socially and politically divided region, can only prolong the suffering of the people of West Africa.
It is important to note that ECOWAS leaders are quite adept at producing superfluous communiqués, after two or three days of basking in group therapy and back slapping.
So what was discussed and agreed at the ECOWAS meeting?
After two days of talks, a communiqué was published, and this is an excerpt:
The Heads of State and Government reiterated their firm commitment to the development of the Region through the acceleration of the integration process, including the implementation of sectoral programmes and the consolidation of the common market within the framework of respect for fundamental principles as contained in the founding Act, Protocols and other relevant texts of ECOWAS, including those relating to the promotion and consolidation of democracy and good governance.
The Authority commended the quality of the reports and the pertinence of the recommendations contained therein. To this end, the Heads of State and Government endorsed the main recommendations in the relevant reports and briefings, and made the following conclusions and specific Decisions:
I. The Regional Economic Performance and Consolidation of the Common Market
The Authority judges as encouraging the economic performance recorded by the Region in 2012.
In order to consolidate the performance and sustain growth capable of reducing poverty, the Heads of State and Government undertake targeted measures towards sanitizing the macroeconomic framework, deepening structural reforms, diversifying the productive base of the economy, and improving social services.
In that regard, Authority directs the President of the Commission to take additional measures to reinforce the achievements of the different integration projects, particularly those aimed at consolidating the common market, enhancing convergence programmes, promoting the private sector and boosting the resilience of the region through the implementation of appropriate sectoral policies.
The Heads of State and Government welcome the progress made in the finalization of the CET and direct the President of the ECOWAS Commission to continue, in collaboration with the UEMOA Commission, the coordination work needed for the creation of the Customs Union.
The Authority stresses in this regard, the need for the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and Goods and therefore, calls for greater appropriation of the Protocol by Member States.
They welcome the efforts undertaken by the West African Region in fine-tuning the market access offer and direct the President of the Commission to finalize, as soon as possible, proposals to that effect in line with the on-going work on the CET and the development objectives of the Region.
The Authority welcomes the 14 December 2012 Sipopo Declaration of African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Heads of State and Government on Economic Partnership Agreement.
It calls on the Chief Negotiators of the two parties to intensify consultations with greater flexibility, in order to conclude negotiations on the pending issues.
The Heads of State and Government, therefore, call for a meeting of the Chief Negotiators as soon as possible with a view to reaching agreement on the different areas of divergence.
In this regard, Authority endorses the Priority Action Plan for West Africa and the Infrastructural Development Programme for Africa, and directs the Commission to expedite their implementation.
The Authority directs the President of the ECOWAS Commission to take all the necessary measures to support Member States in the implementation of emergency energy programmes.
In particular, Authority instructs the President of the Commission to pursue the efforts aimed at extending and improving the efficiency of interconnectivity projects in all the countries of the Region, including the West African Gas Pipeline.
It also instructs the President to facilitate the coordination of priority projects preparation in Member States.
In that regard, Authority requests the President of the Commission to convene a meeting of Ministers responsible for Energy to consider the requests from Member States and make the appropriate recommendations.
Authority reaffirms its commitment to combat food insecurity in West Africa.
While stressing the importance of the ECOWAS Common Agricultural Policy, the Heads of State and Government request the Commission to expedite action on the implementation of the ‘Rice Offensive’, the regional programmes to develop small-scale livestock farming, and the hydraulic programmes.
In particular, Summit directs the President of the Commission, in particular, to take all necessary measures to ensure the effective takeoff of the regional food reserve, and to address the environmental challenges more effectively by pursuing efforts to find appropriate solutions to pollution.
Summit reaffirms its determination to make malaria eradication a major component of Members states’ agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
In this regard, Authority emphasizes the importance of a multi-sectoral strategy focused particularly on the vector control component and sensitization.
Summit calls on Member States to promote this component in their national programmes and directs the Commission to facilitate efforts in this regard.
In this context, the Chairman of Authority laid the foundation stone for the construction of the first bio-larvicide factory in Côte d’Ivoire, out of the three envisaged for West Africa, at a ceremony in the margins of the Summit.
Democracy and Good Governance
The Heads of State and Government welcome the increasing acceptance of the Community’s constitutional convergence principles and the gradual deepening of democratic culture in the Region.
Authority commends the Governments and people of Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Ghana for conducting peaceful Presidential and Legislative elections in the course of 2012, which were adjudged by ECOWAS, as well as local and international observers as free, fair, and transparent.
It also commends Burkina Faso for conducting successful legislative and municipal elections in December 2012.
Authority warmly congratulates Ernest Bai Koroma on his re-election as President of Sierra Leone, and John Dramani Mahama, on his elevation to the highest office in Ghana.
Authority expresses expectation that the legislative elections in Guinea and Togo, as well as the general elections in Mali and Guinea Bissau anticipated in 2013, will similarly be peaceful, consensual, inclusive, and credible.
Authority however expresses concern about the incidents of political violence, non-acceptance of election results, and military interference that mar the advances made in the democracy agenda, and instructs the ECOWAS Commission to deepen its electoral assistance to Member States.
The Security and Political Situation in Mali
Authority strongly condemns the on-going suicide bombings and guerilla attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in the north of Mali and urges the allied forces to take all necessary steps within the framework of the counter-insurgency operation to neutralize them and ensure the prosecution of collaborators.
Authority expresses its profound gratitude to Government of France for its decisive action. Authority also expresses its deepest gratitude to the Government and People of Chad for their exemplary demonstration of concrete solidarity with the people of Mali and their commitment to the ideals of the African Union.
Authority pays special tribute to the gallant heroes of this great nation who paid the ultimate price helping Mali to assert its territorial integrity.
The Political and Security situation in Guinea Bissau
Authority reiterates its unflinching support to the transition in Guinea Bissau. Authority welcomes the signing of the Transitional Pact by all the major political parties as well as the spirit of consensus and inclusiveness that is building around the process.
Other Security Threats
Authority reaffirms its commitment to the fight against terrorism in the Region. In this regard, it endorses the ECOWAS Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Implementation Plan as well as the Political Declaration on a Common Position against Terrorism.
To this end, Authority welcomes the planned ministerial meeting and Summit of ECOWAS and ECCAS scheduled to hold in 2013 to adopt a broader Regional Strategy and Plan of Action on the fight against Maritime Insecurity.
To achieve enhanced effectiveness of the ECOWAS Commission, the Heads of State and Government decide to increase the number of the members of the Commission from 12 to 15. It tasks the President of the Commission to propose the new delimitation of Departments to the Council of Ministers for the consideration of Authority at its earliest meeting.
Finally, after the Heads of State and Government had paid “glowing tribute to Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and Chairman of Authority, for the constant commitment he has demonstrated throughout the year, in guiding the affairs of the community” the meeting ended in peace and harmony.
Chaired by Alassane Ouattara – President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, the attendance register, reads like a roll call of who is who in West Africa:
Blaise COMPAORE, President of Burkina Faso; Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, President of The Gambia;John Dramani MAHAMA, President of the Republic of Ghana.
Also present, were; Alpha CONDE, President of the Republic of Guinea; Manuel Serifo NHAMAJO, Interim President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau; Ellen JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, President of the Republic of Liberia; Dioncounda TRAORE, Interim President of the Republic of Mali.
Mahamadou ISSOUFOU, President of the Republic of Niger; Goodluck Ebele JONATHAN, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Macky SALL, President of the Republic of Senegal.
Ernest Bai KOROM A, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone; and Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE, President of the Togolese Republic.
But will West Africa be much richer and more peaceful this same time next year, when the heads of state meet again for another round of talks?
West Africa has some of the most dire statistics on Global Human Development, and with the continuing political unrest and chaos lurking on the doorsteps of many of those countries, civil liberty and development are likely to pay a heavy price.
And, with poor governance and corruption, eating away at much needed public investments, few countries in West Africa will this same time next year, see economic growth reaching the average for the continent.