The Forum for National Equity, a civil society organisation, has challenged the Economic Committee of West Africa (ECOWAS) to exert the political will to link member states with rail lines to strengthen the integration process.
Mr Prince Bagnaba Mba, President of the forum said the whole essence of the 40-year-old ECOWAS is about integration and one of the fastest means to do so is the provision of transport infrastructure such as rail transport, which is cost effective and supersedes other forms of transport.
“Rail transport is the cheapest means to travel and one good example is the one linking Abidjan-Ouagadougou and Bamako –Dakar, which are colonial relics,” he told Ghana News Agency in an interview on Monday.
Mr Mba said there is an urgent need to have a rail line from Lagos-Cotonou- Lome-Accra-Abidjan as a first phase of the ECOWAS project.
He said if there is the political will there would be no need for the regional leaders to wait on investors and technologies from Europe or China for instance but through public-private-partnership and other stakeholder interest they could facilitate the process.
Mr Mba said the regional leaders should deem the project as a high priority venture that could be done through the initiatives of individual member states to create the link.
“By the time ECOWAS celebrates its 50th anniversary the rail lines should part of the anniversary story of integration, taking a clue from Europe where one could travel from Berlin- Paris without hindrance.
“Until we get transport right the whole essence of trade integration will be meaningless. ECOWAS should not be a jamboree, where leaders wine and dine but should be ECOWAS of the people and not ECOWAS of technocrats.”
Mr Mba said after all the former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan showed the way by reviving the railway sector in his country.
He noted that the marine sector in West Africa is also undertilised while air freights are too expensive for business.