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42 years after its establishment, ECOWAS makes significant progress in spite of the numerous challenges
Mrs Marjon Kamara, Chairperson of ECOWAS Council of Ministers

Monrovia, 1st June 2017. The President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Marcel de Souza, underscored the significant progress made by the regional organisation 42 years after its establishment, notwithstanding the enormous challenges it faces.

Speaking this Thursday 1st June 2017 in Monrovia, Liberia, on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the 78th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, Mr de Souza emphasised the Institution’s achievements since its establishment in Lagos, Nigeria on 28 May 1975.

In reference to the 1st ECOWAS Treaty, Marcel de Souza recalled that the Founding Fathers dreamt of the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, right of establishment and residence, building a West African Customs Union, as well as creation of a single currency.

‘Despite the challenges encountered, ECOWAS is playing a leading role in the area of free movement in Africa. Today, there is an important flow of population in our region, and the Member States that welcome more citizens are Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. Out of 100 West Africans would-be-immigrants in the world, only 15% go to Europe’, disclosed Marcel de Souza.

On the single currency, the Commission President revealed that it cannot be established in the next 5 to 10 years, due to the non-convergence of economies in ECOWAS Member States.

An economy is said to be convergent when there are coordinated fiscal policies regarding both monetary and debt issues. This is not yet the case with our Member States, where inflation remains a real problem, he pointed out.

Still on the economy, the President of the Commission deplored the low volume of trade among Member States.

‘The volume of trade was estimated at USD 15 billion in 2015, against USD 3 billion in 2003, thus multiplying by 5 in 10 years. However, compared with Europe, we trade four times more with that continent than among ourselves’, he declared.

He noted that other achievements by the regional organisation include the entry into force of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (ECOWAS CET).

As regards the ETLS, not only the texts are not known and deserve to be popularised, but they have also not been ratified by certain Member States, revealed the Commission President.

With respect to the ECOWAS CET, it is recalled that more than two years after its entry into force on 1st January 2015, only 13 out of the 15 Member States have so far implemented it, with the exception of Cabo Verde and Sierra Leone, he explained.

Referring to the revised ECOWAS Treaty, he indicated that it is focusing mainly on peace and security, noting that, without these two elements, we cannot effectively fight against poverty, create jobs for the youth, improve the living conditions of our people and promote economic development.

The regional peace and security architecture provides for conflict prevention, management and resolution, as well as early warning, stressed Marcel de Souza.

The early warning system allows us to analyse human security issues and anticipate political crises, food shortages, health problems and disasters, he declared.

He equally recalled the terrorist threat facing West Africa, notably attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram and radical Islamists in Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire.

Before the Commission President, Liberia’s Foreign Affairs Minister and Chairperson of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, Mrs Marjon Kamara, highlighted other achievements and challenges, in particular those relating to infrastructure.

In that regard, she recalled the efforts undertaken by her country’s government in infrastructure development in order to host this session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and other statutory meetings.

This 78th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers has over thirty items on the agenda for decision, adoption and information.

Council, comprising ECOWAS Member States’ Ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs, is responsible for ensuring the smooth running and development of the Community, and making recommendations to the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the regional organisation.

Photos of the ceremony

From L. to R. delegates of The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire and Cabo Verde
Delegations of Niger and Nigeria
Delegations of Benin and Burkina Faso
Marcel de Souza, president of ECOWAS Commission
Commissioners of the ECOWAS Commission
Other Commissioners of the ECOWAS Commission present at the Opening Ceremony
Other Commissioners of the ECOWAS Commission

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