The 74th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers for sub-regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), opened here on Friday to discuss among other things the memorandum relating the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) .
The two-day session will also look at ECOWAS Common External Tariff and national biometric Identity Cards and Registration of ECOWAS citizens.
Opening the session, Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, tasked member-states to remind themselves that the sub-regional body, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, must continue in its efforts to promote regional economic integration.
She said it was time to reflect on achievements and failures in the past and rededicate themselves to the objectives of regional integration.
“ECOWAS should also continue to consolidate a common market, harmonize trade policies and fully implement trade liberalization schemes in line with our aims and objectives which are to promote cooperation and integration,” Tetteh urged.
According to the Ghanaian minister, who is also chair for the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, such an arrangement would lead to the establishment of an economic union “with its cascading effects of raising the living standards of our people as well as maintaining and enhancing economic stability”.
The minister congratulated Liberia for overcoming the scourge of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), as Nigeria and Togo for holding successful elections in the past months.
Tetteh pointed out that things would not have been easy in the sub-region, saying: “had the Nigerian elections gone bad, we would not have been sitting here today”.
“Notwithstanding the EVD, our sub-region witnessed improved growth of 4.5 percent in 2014. Despite headwinds, growth is projected to pick up to 5.1 percent by 2017, lifted by infrastructure investment, increased agriculture production and buoyant services,” Tetteh disclosed.
She commended member-states for the great effort and resources deployed to help in combating the disease in the sub-region, expressing the hope that, with the stepping up of the efforts, the two other countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea would also reach the zero-Ebola threshold sooner than later.
Vice President of ECOWAS, Toga Gayewea Mcintosh, in his opening remarks, reiterated that the agenda of transformation from an ECOWAS of states to an ECOWAS of people was still on.
“This session is coming on at a time when we can rightly be proud of belonging to West Africa and consider the future of this region with greater hope,” Mcintosh stated.
With the successful and peaceful elections in Nigeria and Togo, the Vice-President expressed the hope that elections in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea later this year would also be peaceful.
He noted that those successful elections were the signal of the deepening of democracy in the sub-region.
“This year in which we will celebrate the Community’s 40th anniversary is also the year for the ECOWAS Common External Tariff implementation. I consider it fortunate coincidence and a just reward for efforts by member-states to evolve a common customs union and thus build their common market in particular,” Mcintosh intimated. Enditem