President Bola Tinubu, the newly appointed chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called for improved private sector participation in the effort towards the economic development of member states as well as their social integration.
The Nigerian president made the call during his inaugural speech following an unanimous endorsement that signals the trust and confidence reposed in him by his counterparts at the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.
Tinubu pledged to work collectively with the leaders of the 14 other member countries to pursue an inclusive economic integration, which will be significantly private sector driven, in order to unlock the vast economic potentials of our region.
“We would actively promote trade, investment, and business cooperation among Member States by addressing the barriers impeding intra-regional trade, as well as creating a conducive business environment,” he said.
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He also encouraged economic partnerships among member states to raise the level of trade and investments in the region, hence facilitating employment creation and sustainable development and prosperity for the citizens.
To this end, President Tinubu said the regional political and economic union must look inward and work with its regional economic facilitation platforms such as the Federation of West of West Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) as well as ECOWAS Trade Organisation Network to attain its desired goals.
He also assured the regional leaders of the immediate implementation of his vision for the ECOWAS, Nigeria intends to convene an ECOWAS Extra Ordinary Summit on Trade and Investment in October 2023, committed towards the region’s economic recovery and growth.
According to President Tinubu, the event will provide opportunity for Member States to showcase their potentials and encourage match-making, in order to evolve business cooperation among the various organized private sectors within the sub-region.
Speaking In the area of strengthening the organisation’s Institutions and ensuring effective performance, he emphasised the need for the conclusion of the on-going institutional reforms of the organisation.
“Given that Community Levy remained the biggest source of generating funds to run our organisation, we must ensure that our citizens being taxed must be positively impacted by the programmes and projects of ECOWAS. This is in line with the shift of ECOWAS slogan from “ECOWAS of State” to “ECOWAS of People,” he stressed.
Commenting on the spate of insecurity in the region, he remarked that the threat to peace had reached an alarming proportion with terrorism and an emerging pattern of military takeover that now demanded urgent and concerted actions.
He noted that insecurity and creeping terrorism were stunting the progress and development of the region.
“On peace and security, the threat has reached an alarming level, and needs urgent actions in addressing the challenges. Indeed, without a peaceful environment, progress and development in the region will continue to remain elusive. In this regard, we must remain committed to the utilisation of all regional frameworks at our disposal to address the menace of insecurity,” he stated.
The Nigerian president therefore called for a collective action from member-states, pledging that under his leadership, frameworks would be harmonised to actualize the dreams of ECOWAS.
On the progress made so far concerning security, he noted that ECOWAS had developed a security architecture, which according to him, covers a wide range of areas that involved kinetic and non-kinetic operations, including preventive diplomacy. He also pointed out that there is also the Regional Plan of Action on Fight against Terrorism 2020-2024 as well as the operationalization of the ECOWAS Standby Force on Fight Against Terrorism.
“I will ensure that we immediately harmonize these plans and mobilize resources as well as the political will towards the actualisation of the initiatives. As terrorists do not respect boundaries, we must work collectively to have an effective regional counterterrorism measure,” he said.
Outlining his commitment towards regional integration,President Tinubu stated that he would prioritise political stability, peace and security, regional economic integration and strengthen the ECOWAS institutions, noting that democracy and good governance remain the abiding cornerstone of peace and sustainable development.