ECOWAS strategises to foster sub-regional economic integration
The ECOWAS commission has unfolded plans to fosters economic integration in the West African sub-region, through strategies that would ease trade among member states.
Essentially, the commission plans to collaborate with various stakeholders to remove impediments to trade facilitation and competitiveness within the sub-region.
For effect, the commission and other development partners, in Abuja yesterday, said the determination of every interest group to militate against these impediments alone can bring to the fore the many opportunities that exist for West Africa to gradually integrate into the global trade system.
For instance, ECOWAS said that issues relating to Common External Tariff (CET), poor trading infrastructure and logistics, low utilization of trade liberalization regimes (ETLS), cumbersome and complex customs procedures and cross-border anti-competitiveness practices, as well as the EPA agenda will have to be addressed for the sub-region to enjoy improved trade facilitation.
The commission also insisted that the adoption of a single currency in the region would in no small measure facilitate trade as member states would not need to bother about changing from one currency to the other in order to transact businesses across different states within the sub-region.
Putting the intra and inter regional trade at between 11 to 15 per cent in the past 25 years, the commission said it was time to move with all determinations to remove trade hindrances so that the region can play a key role in global trade.
It maintained that though the informal trade exchanges not accounted for in official figures form a substantial part of trade movement in the region, the contribution of the region to global trade is substantial.
Head of the European Union delegation at the meeting, Brian O’Neil explained that West Africa is yet to equitably participate in global trade as a result of key challenges, which include developing a competitive supply capacity, particularly given the existing low levels of industrialisation and the limited compliance with international market requirement, especially standards and technical regulations.
He said with the opportunities that exist for West Africa to be integrated into the league of global market, it is imperative for the ECOWAS members to form alliance through trade agreements with key stakeholders and remove negative vices militating against investments in West Africa.
O’Neil stressed that bureaucratic impediments in setting up businesses, unpredictable investment regulations which vary across the region, uncoordinated tax incentives, among others, impede smooth business operations, leading to low economic growth and the concommitant low job creation, leaving little opportunity for the rapidly growing young population in the region to find productive and dignified work in the home states. This, he said, is a driver for recruitment to crime, insurgency and illegal migration.
His words:’’There is every reason to believe that West Africa can become one of the next hot emerging markets despite the challenges. With abundant natural and human resources with access to markets, the only thing holding West Africa back is West Africa itself. We need to move from talk to walking the talk’’.