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We must endeavour to translate words into reality

Dec 21, 2015, 10:07 AM

West African leaders who last Thursday in Abuja concluded a three-day meeting of the 48th ordinary session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of the State and Government, and commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Community, also discussed pertinent issues relating to the security, growth and development of the sub-region.

A communiqué by ECOWAS has stressed the need for its member states to strive hard to create more jobs for their people and pursue a policy of more resilient economies, which it said could be done through structural reforms, implement sound macroeconomic policies, and ensuring diversification of economies.

According to the communiqué, they also agreed to increase the volume of intra-community trade, make the free movement of person and goods a reality and pay attention to sectors such as infrastructure, energy, agriculture and human capital.

“The Authority calls on the commission to pursue the harmonisation of sectoral policies and take all necessary measures to support the effective implementation of programmes under these different sectors,” the communiqué stated, adding:

“The Authority reaffirms the importance of employment, education, health and social protection in national development strategies and urges member states to sustain their job creation efforts, particularly for young people, by promoting public and private investments in all areas.”

In as much as these plans are good, West African citizens have to come know that decisions like these hardly materialize or it will take ages before such plans would start to see the light of the day in a piecemeal fashion.

As a matter of fact, the the trade report prepared by the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) and discussed in Banjul recently showed that intra-ECOWAS trade was nothing more than10 per cent whilst intra-WAMZ trade was a paltry 1 per cent in 2014.

Quoting the Trade Integration Report for 2014, the WAMI Director General says: “The draft report shows that intra-ECOWAS trade is about 10.0 per cent and intra-WAMZ trade is even lower at about 1.0 per cent and both have declined in 2014, compared with 2013.”

This situation, the report noted, is attributable to a number of factors, which include the outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease in the region, infrastructure deficiencies, non-tariff barriers to trade, among others.

The limited implementation of the trade-related protocols among member states was also cited as a constraining factor to the capacity of the member states in harnessing the potential for deeper regional trade hence WAMI is calling for greater policy implementation.

With these glaring facts coming from an institution set up by the very Ecowas, it would be very difficult not to take the above-mentioned development plans by the Ecowas heads of state with a pinch of salt.

The great paradox is that West African countries, or Africa as a whole, have continued over ages to produce raw materials that are exported to feed the manufacturing firms and factories of other nations.

And as countries and a region, we don’t really benefit much from our resources as much as we don’t trade much among ourselves.

This is huge default and big loss for us, since intra-trade and value addition to our produce go a long way in growing our economy and placing us on a better pedestal in the journey of national and regional development.

Therefore, our leaders should always endeavour to translate their words into action and reality, by delivering the goods for the people of the region.

“ Without economic development, any potential for political openness and freedom will be questionable.”

Jose Maria Aznar