Kouyate renders stewardship to ECOWAS Council of Ministers

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Lansana Kouyate, whose mandate as ECOWAS Executive Secretary expires this month, told the Council of Ministers Saturday in Dakar Saturday that he has re- positioned the 15-nation economic grouping for accelerated integration.
"As my mandate as Executive Secretary of ECOWAS draws to an end, I am proud to be able to affirm that ECOWAS is properly equipped to move full steam ahead, despite the numerous troubles that continue to impede its progress towards the [realisation] of all its political and economic integration objectives," the Guinean diplomat told the ministers at the opening of their three-day 48th session.
Kouyate, who became the fifth Executive Secretary of the Nigeria-based organisation in 1997, cited achievements during his tenure to include a prioritising of the harmonisation of economic and financial policies.
He also cited the introduction of a Common External Tariff, launching of the ECOWAS Passport, and the setting up of institutions such as the ECOWAS Court of Justice and the ECOWAS Parliament.
Others are the adoption of the new macro-economic convergence criteria and "the fast-tracking of the regional integration process, which involves the creation of a second monetary zone.
" Kouyate said "the Secretariat has also been deeply involved in the search for peace and stability in the sub-region," adding that he had "initiated action for the reinforcement of the conflict prevention, resolution and management mechanism, which resulted in the creation of the Council of Elders, and the setting up of observatories responsible for giving early warning of conflict flash-points.
" With regard to sectoral policies, he said new regional development programmes had been initiated in the areas of the environment, energy, transport, telecommunications, education and health.
Kouyate said he also saw to the movement of the ECOWAS seat from Lagos to Abuja and "followed this up by initiating measures for the restructuring of the Secretariat .
while the technical commissions as defined by the Treaty were also reactivated and given the capacity to effectively discharge their assigned functions.
" On relations between ECOWAS and the outside world, he said he believed "the achievements of ECOWAS are better known and appreciated by the international community.
Many countries and donors are now indicating their readiness to lend their support to our Organisation.
" Kouyate also said he worked to strengthen ties between ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), whose eight members of the CFA franc zone, are members of ECOWAS.
"Today, factors linking the two organisations are stronger than those dividing them.
As a result, they have set up a joint action programme for the creation of a common market and the harmonisation of their economic and financial policies," he said.
But Kouyate noted that "the chronic financial straits of ECOWAS institutions weighed heavily in the balance when considering the results achieved during my mandate.
" He said "some Member States are owing more than 20 years' arrears of contribution.
Others, even at this late date, have failed to ratify the protocol establishing the Community levy, which would have enabled them to begin to liquidate their arrears of contribution.
" Kouyate said in addition to the financial problems, he also inherited an organisation facing a "crisis of confidence on the one hand, between the Secretariat and the Member States, and on the other, between ECOWAS and its foreign partners.
" "Only gradually was this double dilemma resolved.
However, the formula for the final success of the work that was begun in 1975 can be summarised in three words: will, determination and saying power," he added.
Lamenting the non-implementation of many ECOWAS decisions and protocols, Kouyate said "regardless of the degree of relevance and adaptation of any programmes and action plans adopted within my proposed framework, the harsh reality is that if integration is to succeed, the thorny issue of implementation must first be resolved.
"The problem is a continuing one, and renders it all the more important that the ratification and implementation of all ECOWAS acts and decisions, as well as the regular payment of financial contributions should be addressed as a matter of extreme urgency.
" In his report entitled "An Integrated West Africa as the Building block for a strong African Union," Kouyate said the last two years had represented a landmark in the history of the sub-region and the continent at large.
He said the GDP of all West African countries increased by 3.
2 percent in 2000 compared to 2.
5 percent in 1999, linked to the exceptionally high performance rate of the region's leading economy, Nigeria, which benefited from the increase in the price petroleum products.
Kouyate noted that West African production would have been even higher if the economies of certain countries had not suffered an unexpected recession, due to the combined effect of the increase in the price of imported petroleum, and the slump in the prices of other raw materials, exported by the countries.
At the continental level, he said the conception and adoption of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the birth of the African Union represent a re-awaking in Africa.
"ECOWAS and other sub-regional African organisations," he said, "are the pillars holding up this new edifice.
" The Council of Ministers meeting opened by the Senegalese Foreign Affairs and African Union minister Chiekh Tidiane Gado, is one of the preparatory meetings ahead of the ECOWAS 25th Ordinary Summit 20-21 December, also in the Senegalese capital.
The Summit is expected to elect a new Executive Secretary and, according to diplomatic sources, confirm host President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal chair of the ECOWAS, taking over from Malian leader Alpha Oumar Konare.

15 december 2001 20:36:00

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