ECOWAS, partners to improve business climate in West Africa

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - ECOWAS is partnering with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the European Union (EU) to implement a programme for the improvement of the business environment in the sub-region, according to the ECOWAS Commission President, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo.

“This will cover the development of a regional investment policy, finalisation of a regional investment code, the implementation of a regional investment policy monitoring platform developed jointly by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO),” Ouedraogo, represented by the ECOWAS Director of Private Sector, Mr. Alfred Braimah, told a Global Banking and Investment Forum, organized in London on 6 November, by the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI).

"West Africa is associated with a difficult business and investment environment, accentuated by poverty, infrastructure deficit, policy deficiency and political governance issues," his message read.

According to Ouedraogo, “The future looks much brighter now, given the level of political will of the Heads of State and Government and the full support of the development partner community to assist the ECOWAS Commission and the Member States to address the business climate challenges at the National and Regional Levels through the development of the right policy frameworks.”

With a population of about 300 million people and GDP of US$ 316 billion, the ECOWAS region accounts for 4.5% of the world’s population, but only 0.5% of the world’s GDP.

Ouedraogo, however, noted that this was also changing, with a projected 5% annual growth rate in GDP for the region.

“Despite the enormous challenges, there is great opportunity for growth and development within the ECOWAS Region,” he said. “Also, potential returns on investment are extremely attractive and more than commensurate for the level of business risk.”

“It is worth stating,” he said: “that three out of the 40 African Challengers (global business competitors) identified by the Boston Consulting Group are in the ECOWAS region.” These are ECOBANK, the Dangote Group and UBA.

With ongoing programmes under the ECOWAS Common Investment Market Initiative, the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and Common External Tariff, the Common ECOWAS Passport and Visa initiative, the President said “there is a large untapped market but only those who are bold to invest notwithstanding the difficulties will reap the benefits.”

But while “much improvement can be achieved through the effort of a single country,” he explained that “there are challenges that are better addressed at regional level, especially given that most of countries share the same challenge that their laws and regulations are outdated and require updating to be at par with the current international best practices, and that a regional approach may also encourage regional integration.”

To this end, the President said the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had adopted a number of protocols to promote regional integration through business and investment promotion. Among them is the Supplementary Act on Investment Rules and approved framework, developed by the Commission, for the preparation of a Community Investment Code.

He told the forum that work on the draft code had been completed and that the draft Community Investment Policy would be completed in 2013.

In addition, a Competitions Act has been adopted by the Authority and the Commission is in the process of establishing a Competitions Board and regional and national councils for the ECOWAS Common Investment Market.

On policy and key programmes, Ouedraogo said the Authority had also approved a number of texts which were at various stages of implementation.

These include the ECOWAS Common Agriculture Programme (ECOWAP) - to address the chronic food security challenges; the West African Common Industrial and Quality Policies; Various policies on Energy including renewable energy which sets the platform for the attraction of private sector investments on IPP and PPP basis; and the Policy on the Environment.

he said that in compliance with the directive of regional leaders, the Commission was also stepping up efforts to develop infrastructure in the region with emphasis on Road, Air and Rail Transport, Energy with a focus on renewable energy and energy distribution.

The Commission has also commenced the construction of a number of joint border posts to provide for a one-stop customs, immigration clearance of people and goods between Member States.

This is to enable the region to fully leverage the benefits of having a common customs goods clearance platform (ASYCUDA) developed by ECOWAS and implemented by all Member States.

To address issues of political risk, studies have been concluded on the need to establish an Investment Guarantee/Reinsurance Agency, while the region is in the process of finalising a strategic framework document for private sector development with a focus on the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
-0- PANA PR/VAO 16Nov2012

16 november 2012 18:40:01

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