Economists and experts in foreign trade, customs and integration from across West Africa and beyond yesterday concluded a two-day meeting to assess the potential implications of West African regional group ECOWAS admitting two of North African countries into the bloc.
The two-day ad hoc expert group meeting in Cotonou, Benin, was designed to avail experts a platform to have a deepened and objective discussions on the pros and cons of Morocco and Tunisia joining the West African bloc as well as the re-admission of Mauritania.
Held under the theme: Potential expansion of Ecowas and the implications of African Continental Free Trade Area’, the meeting was organised by the Sub-regional Office for West Africa of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the government of Benin.
Director of ECA West Africa, Prof. Dimitri Sanga said the tasks for the experts included to thoroughly look at the implications in terms of trade flows and public policy as well as consider the implications for the well-being of the people.
“So the objective is for them [the experts] to identify and discuss the main challenges for ECOWAS, and also for the countries joining the community. They will also formulate recommendations for an economic and socioeconomic expansion beneficial to all parties.”
At the end of the meeting, he said, the experts are expected to formulate recommendations for an economically and socially beneficial expansion of the sub-region and an accelerated implementation of the African continental free trade that would ultimately foster the achievement of structural transformation of economies and strengthening of regional integration in West Africa.
“At the end of the meeting, the ECA secretariat will prepare a report on the major conclusions and recommendations from the deliberations and submit it to the experts for validation,” Prof Sanga said.
The two day expert meeting was organised to precede the 21st Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE21) for West Africa on the theme ‘Regional integration in West Africa: New challenges and prospects’, to be also held in held from 27 – 29 June 2018.
The ad hoc expert group meeting was prompted as two North African countries applied for admission into ECOWAS. Morocco formally expressed its desire to join the West African bloc in February 2017, citing its strong, age-long ties with the sub-region as the rationale for its decision. Tunisia also applied to become a full member of in August 2017.
Meanwhile, Mauritania, a founding member of ECOWAS, which left in 2000 to join the Arab Maghreb union, has also applied for re-admission into the bloc.
The ECA, as a think-tank, in collaboration with partners, found it appropriate to examine the potential economic implications related to an eventual accession of Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania to ECOWAS.