ECOWAS Moves to Remove Trade Barriers

By our Reporter

Following recent trends globally, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said it will remove obstacles to regional integration by investing time and resources on reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers in West Africa.

The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, said this while speaking at the opening of the 89th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in Abuja, Saturday.

He said in order to diagnose the state of the region, four strategic objectives have been identified, noting that these would be the focus of “our Management in the next four years. We call this the Commissions 4 by 4 (4 x 4) comprising specific deliverables or results to be realised within our mandate.”

The ECOWAS commission president said one of the objectives is to deepen regional integration, adding that “here we intend to invest time and resources on reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers in our Community and improve the business environment for our private sector, fully operationalise the regional payment system to reduce difficulty of transactions in local currencies and over-reliance on international currencies (the US dollars/euros); we also intend to introduce ECOWAS VISA, at the first instance for diplomatic and service passports.”

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Touray also stated that another objective is Enhanced Peace and Security, where there is an intention to fully implement the ECOWAS Action Plan against Terrorism, fully operationalise the ECOWAS Maritime SecurityMaritime Security Architecture, fully operationalise the National Early Warning and Response Centres and build synergy with the ECOWAS Early Warning and Response Mechanism, and continuously build ECOWAS mediation and response capacity.

He pointed out that another of the strategic objectives is good governance, including good corporate governance to build confidence. He said “We will be focusing on building a stronger regime against anti-constitutional changes of government and supporting our Member States to deepen democracy.

According to him, “Our target here includes completing the democratic transitions in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali and strengthening both ECOWAS Court and ECOWAS Parliament to play their respective roles in improving governance in our region.”

He then explained that ECOWAS is equally interested in Inclusive and Sustainable Development, under which there is the intention to increase “our commitment to food security, regional highway development, energy access, disaster response, gender mainstreaming, and climate action.”

He continued by saying a
that, “Besides these four strategic objectives, we have identified two enablers, namely capable institutions and equitable partnerships. Under these capable institutions’ initiative, we intend to look at our processes and our human and financial resources with respect to partnerships.”

Following, Dr. Carla Suzi Barbosa, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Community of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and President of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, in her address, lamented the disruptions in the West African economies due to COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine-Russia.

Barbosa stated that, “Furthermore, our sub-region has been troubled by human insecurity and violent extremism, and more recently by new waves of coups d’état, guided by uncertain compromises — which represents elements of fragility of some Member States in implementing mechanisms that guarantee the sustainability of the values of democracy and good governance.”

She emphasised that as a consequence, “we are witnessing increasing situations of human poverty and vulnerabilities such as climate change, irregular rainfall, waves of internal displacement, forced migration, communities kidnapped by armed bandits, among others.”

Afterwards, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, in his message charged all the ministers to take the deliberations at the meeting to heart as the entire sub-region depends on them.

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