Nigeria: Ouedraogo: ECOWAS has made 'giant strides'

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - As the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) celebrates its 40th anniversary, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo, says the sub-region has made "giant strides" towards the creation of a common region with respect for their cultural diversity.

However, several obstacles needed to be removed to achieve this success towards building a unified regional space, he said.

In a message to mark the 40th anniversary of ECOWAS, which falls on Thursday, Ouedraogo said thanks to the determination, commitment, and courage of visionary leaders, the dream of a region united around common values and shared ambitions, had become a reality.

"We just need to look at the past to measure the progress made by our Community’s Member States," he said.

Ouedraogo noted that in 1975 the region’s population was 115 million people, most of whom could not move from one country to another without the required visa.

Moreover, only a few capitals were interconnected by a navigable road network, and the borders were, for the most part, fault lines between the peoples of the region.

"Today, ECOWAS boasts over 300 million citizens, mostly under 25. For this generation, to move and reside freely from one country to another in our region is not only a right but also an obvious achievement."

He said achievements of the sub-region included:  
• Greater entrenchment of democratic culture;
• Enhanced efficiency in conflicts and crisis prevention and resolution as witnessed in Liberia and Sierra Leone and, more recently, in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Burkina Faso;
• Accelerated implementation of sectoral programmes for wealth creation;
• Implementation of  the Common External  Tariff;
• Commencement of the Abidjan-Lagos Highway Project under the regional infrastructure development programme;
• Resolute march towards the creation of a  single  currency by 2020;
• Capacity for organising an efficient regional response against challenges such as the Ebola virus disease and terrorism; and
• Adoption of a single biometric identity card.

Although the sub-region had every right to feel proud, this should not make it lose sight that there were a lot of challenges ahead before making the ECOWAS of people the living reality, Ouedraogo said.

"Consequently, in this jubilee year we, the ECOWAS Institutions, Member States, civil society organizations and other stakeholders in the regional integration process, need not be afraid to highlight our shortcomings and the delays we have encountered in implementing our community protocols and directives.

"But I am hopeful that in the light of this review, the Community citizens will be indulgent with us, bearing in mind that the building of a borderless region which at the same time is an area of peace, respect for human rights and equal opportunities, is an ever-evolving project."

Ouedraogo appealed for the youth’s strong mobilisation to meet the African integration, unity and fraternity objectives.

He urged women in this year 2015, which has been declared Year of gender equality and women empowerment, to be more actively involved in the regional integration agenda.

Established on May 28 1975 via the treaty of Lagos, ECOWAS is a 15-member regional group with a mandate of promoting economic integration in all fields of activity of the constituting countries.

Considered one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was set up to foster the ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states. As a trading union, it is also meant to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation.

It states on its website that integrated economic activities as envisaged in the area that has a combined GDP of $734.8 billion, revolve around but are not limited to industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial issues, social as well as cultural matters.
-0- PANA PR/MA 27May2015

27 may 2015 21:35:05




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