Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - The President of the ECOWAS Commission, James Victor Gbeho, has invited the Chinese private sector to participate in the sixth ECOWAS Trade Fair, scheduled to take place later in the year, the commission said in a statement Friday.
The invitation is aimed at strengthening the partnership between West Africa’s private sector and their Chinese counterparts, it said.
At meetings with senior Chinese officials in the capital, Beijing, and the Wuhan and Sichuan provinces, Gbeho said their participation would help showcase the business opportunities that could be explored by both sides.
It would also contribute to deepening the economic relations between them.
This would make China the first non-ECOWAS member state to participate in the now biennial fair that enables member states to showcase their products and help to stimulate intra-community trade.
Gbeho, who was in China at the head of an ECOWAS delegation to mobilise private sector investment in the development of West Africa's infrastructure and agriculture, drew the attention of the officials to the region’s vast natural resources.
"We consider our region to be a gift to the world because of its natural resource endowments, which fuelled the industrial revolution in Europe and should now be used to stimulate the development of the region," he told the Deputy Governor of Sichuan Province, Mr. Huang Xiao Xiang, on Thursday as the ECOWAS delegation wound up the week-long visit.
He said the region’s vast area of 5.1 million square million kilometres, with an estimated population of 300 million, huge untapped resources, untapped arable land and large market, was an investors' dream.
"It is time for us to deploy these resources in a structured manner for our mutual benefit," he told his Chinese hosts, assuring them of the safety of their investments because of the prevailing atmosphere of peace, stability and democratic governance.
To provide a forum to review their cooperation, Gbeho proposed a biennial meeting of officials of the commission with their counterparts from Sichuan, assuring the Deputy Governor that the region would, among others, welcome investments in agriculture, railways, energy and tourism, four of the areas identified by his host.
In his remarks, Mr. Huang invited ECOWAS to participate in the 12th West China International Trade Fair, scheduled for October 2011.
He offered some incentives, including facilitating ECOWAS’ participation in the fair, assistance with the organisation of a seminar on ECOWAS during the fair and a free office space to host ECOWAS' business office in the provincial capital, to help stimulate business engagement by both sides.
"We have, through the ongoing process of accelerating our industrialisation, acquired a lot of experience that can be put at the disposal of ECOWAS and will encourage greater business relationship with West Africa by our private sector," he told the ECOWAS President.
The ECOWAS team met with various private sector representatives in the province.
The delegation included Ghana’s Minister of Roads and Highways, Joseph K. Gidisu, and the Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Development of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Foday Mansaray, senior officials of ECOWAS, the two member states and representatives of the region’s private sector.
-0- PANA PR/BOS 24June2011