African government and non-government representatives have met to map out the
prospects and challenges of the sub-region in order to prepare for the recent
developments in ECOWAS and Africa as a whole.
They brainstormed on ways to position the ECOWAS bloc to take advantage of recent developments such as the signing of the African continental free trade, the renewed march towards ECOWAS single currency realisation by 2020, and the potential admission of Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania in ECOWAS.
It was the 21st Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts for West Africa organised by the Sub-Regional Office for West Africa of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the government of Benin.
The theme of the forum from 27 to 29 June in Cotonou was ‘Regional Integration in West Africa: New Challenges and Prospects’.
The director of ECA West Africa, Prof. Dimitri Sanga, said the theme was chosen in the light of the current dynamics in West Africa. It was to avail the experts the platform to identify the main challenges and to make recommendations to accelerate growth and economic transformation of the ECOWAS zone.
He said the aim of the forum was for the participants to engage in deep reflections and analyses with a view to better direct and guide the ECOWAS Commission and its member states to innovative approaches to better the life and livelihood of the people of West Africa.
Prof. Sanga said for West Africa to take full advantage of its resources and potentials in agriculture, energy and demographic dividend, the key word is the transformation.
“We need to accelerate transformation and industrialisation to generate more value, more employment and consequently to make growth more inclusive and resilient,” he said.
Declaring the three-day forum open, the Benin minister of state in charge of planning and development, Abdoulaye Bio Tchane, said the forum would make relevant recommendations to ECOWAS member states, ECA and regional institutions for an acceleration of regional integration and an improvement in the living conditions of populations.
Apart from the discussions on the prospects and challenges of regional integration in West Africa, the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts would consider the statutory reports prepared by the ECA: report on the implementation of the work programme of ECA West Africa office in 2017 and outlook for 2018, the economic profile of West Africa, and the progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in West Africa.
The meeting was expected to enrich and adopt the draft reports, and formulate policy recommendations and strategies for developing national development programmes and accelerating the regional integration process.
The Intergovernmental Committee of Experts is a body established by the UN General Assembly. In West Africa, the committee meets annually with high-level decision-makers from ECOWAS member states to discuss economic and social performance and make relevant recommendations.