By Merit Ibe
As Africa gears toward the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, stakeholders at a virtual event to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) have proffered headway to a better intra-African trade.
President, ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, pointed out that partnership with the Organised Private Sector (OPS) would deepen intra-African trade and lift millions out of poverty.
At the event themed “Optimising Sustainable Trade, Investment and Regional Economic Integration through Effective Partnership between ECOWAS Institutions and the Organised Private Sector,” Brou, represented by Kolawole Sofola, its acting Director of Trade, said the commission, in recognition of the private sector’s role, created stronger framework to boost the sector’s capacity for enhanced trade.
He said the commission had also adopted more than 100 regional standards with 70 others under development on some products, which he listed as mango, cassava, textile and garments as well as information and communication technology among such products.
Sofola noted that trade meant that the region shouldproduce and the key factor of production is energy. In this regard, the commission has been evolving a sub-regional power poll initiative on renewable energy as part of its drive to make sure that electricity is available for all, not just at the urban centre, but at the rural areas to ensure that everybody has access to electricity.
Also, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, said collaboration across societal sectors had emerged as one of the defining concepts of international development in the 21st century.
He stressed the need for ECOWAS member states to work together as a bloc to take advantage of the opportunities in AfCFTA.
“Since the establishment of ECOWAS in 1975, various protocols and supplementary protocols regulating member countries conduct have been signed.
“Our world has limited resources -whether financial, natural or human and, as a society we must optimise their use. The fundamental of good partnership is the ability to bring together diverse resources in ways that we can together achieve more impact, greater sustainability and increased value for all.
“This is so, because it emphasises the need to work together as a bloc to leverage and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA. My Ministry will do everything possible to ensure that the vision of the commission is taken to the next level,” he said.
He harped on the need for member states to strengthen the fundamentals of good partnership that would bring together diverse resources in the region in “ways that we can together achieve more impact, greater sustainability and increased value for all.
Dr George Donkor, President, ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), said many western states showed numerous hurdles to overcome as countries continue to export raw materials, therefore maintaining low levels of development.