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Message Of The Commission President H.E. Kadre Desire Ouedraogo To The Community On The Occasion Of ECOWAS’ 40th Anniversary
28 May 1975 – 28 May 28 2015, 40 years have elapsed since the Founding Fathers signed the Treaty establishing the Economic Community of West African States. Thanks to the determination, commitment, and courage of visionary leaders, the dream of a region united around common values and shared ambitions, has become a reality.We just need to look at the past to measure the progress made by our Community’s Member States.

In that regard, in 1975 the region’s population was 115 million people, most of whom could not move from one country to another without the required visa. Moreover, only a few capitals were interconnected by a navigable road network, and the borders were, for the most part, fault lines between the peoples of the region.

Today, ECOWAS boasts over 300 million citizens, mostly under 25. For this generation, to move and reside freely from one country to another in our region is not only a right but also an obvious achievement.

However, several obstacles needed to be removed to achieve this success towards building a unified regional space.

On this anniversary day we in West Africa can legitimately feel proud of having made giant strides towards the creation of a common region with respect for our cultural diversity. I am pleased to highlight among these achievements:

  • Greater entrenchment of democratic culture;
  • Enhanced efficiency in conflicts and crisis prevention and resolution as witnessed in Liberia and Sierra Leone and, more recently, in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Burkina Faso;
  • Accelerated implementation of sectoral programmes for wealth creation;
  • Implementation of the Common External Tariff;
  • Commencement of the Abidjan-Lagos Highway Project under the regional infrastructure development programme;
  • Resolute march towards the creation of a single currency by 2020;
  • Capacity for organising an efficient regional response against challenges such as the Ebola virus disease and terrorism; and
  • Adoption of a single biometric identity card.

We have every right to feel proud. However, this should not make us lose sight that we have a lot of challenges ahead before making the ECOWAS of people the living reality we all dream of.

Consequently, in this jubilee year we, the ECOWAS Institutions, Member States, civil society organizations and other stakeholders in the regional integration process, need not be afraid to highlight our shortcomings and the delays we have encountered in implementing our community protocols and directives.

But I am hopeful that in the light of this review, the Community citizens will be indulgent with us, bearing in mind that the building of a borderless region which at the same time is an area of peace, respect for human rights and equal opportunities, is an ever-evolving project. I want to make them understand that this objective is still on top of our priorities and at the heart of our action. I further appeal for the youth’s strong mobilisation to meet the African integration, unity and fraternity objectives.

Lastly, on this ECOWAS 40th Anniversary, I am particularly pleased to address every Community citizen. But, I have a special thought for women urging them, in this year 2015 which has been declared Year of gender equality and women empowerment, to be more actively involved in our regional integration agenda. I further urge them, similarly with all other Community citizens, to reflect on the thought of Joseph Ki Zerbo, the great West African historian: “The African shall develop Africa; it shall meet within itself men and women capable of liberating their collective heroes’ virtue of straightening the twisted fate of mother Africa and stitch up her beautiful tattered loincloth.”


 Kadré Désiré OUEDRAOGO

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