The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is in the process of finalising the ECOWAS common external tariff which will lead to the establishment of a common customs union as part of the efforts towards the realisation of financial and monetary integration.
The Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean De Dieu Somda, announced this at the opening of the sixth joint retreat of ECOWAS institutions, permanent representatives and national units in Accra Monday.
He said progress had also been achieved in the integration process with the effective take-off of the ECOWAS multilateral surveillance mechanisms and the adoption in 2009 of the road map for the introduction of an ECOWAS single currency , the Eco, by 2020.
He indicated that Ghana, with a projected growth rate of two per cent or more for the year, epitomised a new dynamism and optimism and becoming a model in the West African sub-region.
Mr Somda said despite the shocks of the persisting global financial system, the economies of West Africa continued to demonstrate remarkable resilience due to a combination of prudent micro-economic policies and strong demand for the region’s resources.
He said in 2010, the region achieved an estimated growth rate of 6.2 per cent even though the figure remained below the minimum seven per cent economic growth rate required for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
He said ECOWAS had progressively pursued the implementation of its flagship protocol of free movement of people and goods and the right of residence within the region and indicated that with regard to challenges, initiatives were underway to address harassment and extortion at the crossing points.
He said the community was basically agrarian and rural, and the adoption of the ECOWAS Common Agricultural Programme (ECOWAP) in 2009, constituted a major milestone in its effort to maximise the region’s comparative advantage and ensuring food security.
He said under the programme, a regional fund for agriculture and food, and a regional technical agency for agriculture and food for the implementation of ECOWAP project had been established and an investment plan amounting to $900 million put in place.
Mr Somda said that despite the remarkable progress achieved, the governance and security situation in the region continued to be characterised by fragility and unpredictability, adding that democratic culture was yet to be consolidated as the recent post-electoral crisis in Cote d’ Ivoire, the difficult election in Liberia and the civil-military tensions in Guinea Bissau clearly demonstrated.
He said drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering and other forms of international organised crime continued to undermine the security of the region and constituted a veritable time bomb and that the phenomenon of the Bokom Haram in Nigeria and the growing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea were new and dangerous trends that must be nipped in the bud.
For his part, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, said in 2010, ECOWAS Council of Ministers approved the guidelines for the operational manual of the national units with the instruction that a comprehensive operational manual be developed and submitted to the council in 2011 for subsequent adoption and approval.
He said since the last retreat held in Kaduna, Nigeria, in November, 2010, developments in the community had made it imperative to update each other on the level of implementation of the recommendation of that meeting and also to adopt strategies for the coming year in line with the priorities of the commission and the community as a whole.
He expressed the hope that the retreat would consider the role of ECOWAS permanent representatives, specifically the challenges and perspectives of the group of players in the regional integration process.
Source: Daily Graphic