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Allocating greater resources to projects and programmes impacting the lives of West African citizens
The Presidium at the opening of the 21st AFC meeting in Monrovia

Monrovia, 25 May 2016. The Chair of the Administration and Finance Committee (AFC) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Head of the ECOWAS National Unit in Liberia, Benedict Roberts, emphasised the need to allocate significant financial resources to development projects and programmes aimed at directly impacting the lives of West African populations.

‘Let us ensure that the development projects and programmes we implement directly improve the living conditions of our citizens’, he gave the charge at the opening, this Thursday 25 May, in Monrovia, Liberia, of the 21st AFC meeting.

To Benedict Roberts, whose country currently chairs the ECOWAS Authority, AFC members are the first line of examiners who are charged with the responsibility to critically review and thereafter determine whether or not the expenditure related to projects, programmes and other activities are in line with the Community Strategic Framework.

He invited AFC and all ECOWAS Institutions to improve their relationships and cooperation in the best interest of the Community, because the two entities belong to the same Community family, he noted.

From L. To R. Benedict Roberts, President of AFC, Marcel de Souza and Edward Singhatey, President and Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission

‘AFC has continuously pledged its unflinching support to the Commission and other ECOWAS Institutions in its determination to implement our Community’s projects and work programmes. However, the relationship between AFC and these Institutions appears to exist only during AFC meetings. Is that the kind of relationship we envisioned?’ he quizzed.

His call seems to have been heeded by the ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza, who, in his address, urged the various Community entities to brainstorm and work closely to address the numerous challenges facing the regional organisation, and attain its set goals.

For Mr de Souza, these objectives expected to be achieved under the institutional reform initiated several years ago, are three-fold. First, contain the Institution’s expenses, without affecting the smooth implementation of Community programmes and projects; second, avoid wastage; and third, allocate 35% of resources to operating costs and 65% to projects and programmes aimed at impacting the lives of West African populations.

The ECOWAS Principal noted that the challenges are enormous.

He alluded to the issues relating to the Commission organogram, which had been a major discussion point during last December 2016’s AFC meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, and ECOWAS’ precarious cashflow situation, which requires that measures are taken to ensure payment of the Community Levy.

‘The Community Levy is the backbone of financing ECOWAS programmes and activities’, Marcel de Souza emphasised.

Obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, promotion of the right of entry, residence and establishment of Community citizens, corruption, youth unemployment, and low trade volume in the region, also constitute key challenges that need to be addressed, noted Mr de Souza.

‘42 years after the establishment of ECOWAS, trade among its Member States is estimated today at 28 billion US dollars, and the rate of regional integration pegged only at 15%. These are very low rates and we should strive to improve them’, he stated.

On the economic front, the Commission President focused on constraints to the establishment of the ECOWAS single currency, and Nigeria’s economic recession with its repercussions on other economies of the region.

Marcel de Souza did not gloss over regional security issues, characterised in particular by the difficult reconciliation among the people of Guinea Bissau despite the numerous initiatives undertaken by ECOWAS for several years; efforts by the Nigerian President, Muhamadu Buhari, to defeat the terrorist group Boko Haram; and the occupation of 2/3 of the Malian territory by Islamists.

With respect to Mali, he announced the upcoming international conference in the country on the fight against terrorism in West Africa, with the aim of discussing a regional strategy to restore peace in Northern Mali.

On The Gambia, Marcel de Souza recalled the peaceful resolution of the post-electoral crisis in that country, the need to reform the Gambian army and judiciary, give priority to national unity and reconciliation of all Gambians, revive the national economy, consolidate the return of peace and democracy, while avoiding settling scores and witch-hunting.

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