West African countries must make concerted efforts to accelerate the pace of development, Mr Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, the Minister of Petroleum has said.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the maiden ECOWAS Mining and Petroleum Forum and Exhibition (ECOMOF), Mr Buah said there is the need for the development of a sub-regional agenda for maximising value from the exploitation of minerals, oil and gas resources.
The two-day conference, which was opened on behalf of President John Dramani Mahama, by Nii Osa Mills, the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources; is being organised by the ECOWAS Commission, in collaboration with Government, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation and AME Trade Ltd.
ECOMOF 2015 on the theme: “Valourising West Africa’s Mineral and Petroleum Resource through Regional Cooperation,” is West Africa’s only institutionally backed regional mining and petroleum forum.
It aims at uniting West Africa’s public and private sector decision makers from both the mining and petroleum industries.
Mr Buah said that West African countries must consciously create value within the value-chain of both their mineral and petroleum industries, from exploration through development and production to refining, and development of petrochemical industries for petroleum resources.
“For minerals, we must ensure refining and smelting within the region and for some minerals such as bauxite we must go further.
“We must examine the relative comparative advantages of each ECOWAS member country and site these processing, refining, petrochemical and smelting facilities in hubs that we will collectively derive the highest value,” he stated.
Mr Buah acknowledged that ECOWAS is already implementing a regional infrastructure plan such as the West Africa Power Pool and transport hub.
“We cannot effectively ensure value addition from our oil and gas and minerals resources and secure the necessary industrialisation and economic development without conscious development of our energy sector,” the Minister said.
“Energy is a major constraint to growth and development, where it is lacking. This calls for rapid measures to meet the energy requirements of various sectors ranging from large scale industries to small scale industries and even homes of citizens,” he added.
Mr Buah said there was the need to adopt a more aggressive regional energy development plan which seeks to harness its hydro, solar, wind and coal potential to produce the required energy needed by refineries, smelters and petrochemical industries.
Besides, there must be a regional plan for sitting gas pipelines, tank farms and other petroleum product transport infrastructure.
He said the integration of pipelines from rich oil fields of oil producing West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast to neighbouring countries was vital.
He said current problems associated with the West Africa Gas Pipeline, if not adequately addressed, constitute a disincentive to any collective regional projects and ECOWAS must take keen interest in the resolution of such challenges.
He said Ghana had shown the way, by sanctioning the interconnectivity between the Ghana Gas Pipeline from Atuabo to Aboadze and the West Africa Gas Pipeline; which would ensure the reverse flow of gas from gas fields in West Ghana to Tema in the East and even beyond to Togo and Benin in the future.
“We must skill up regional projects to cover the sub-region,” he added.
Mr Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, ECOWAS Commission President, said the Commission would continue to be guided by its core operative principles that border on cooperation, harmonization and integration.
“We will continue to make concrete proposals that will enable the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government and the Council of Ministers take decisions on the main orientations of policies of Member States and the Community,” he said.