THE Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and the Federal Republic of Germany are to consolidate the progress made so far in the greater integration of the West African region.
The regional block and Germany are also to explore ways to close the ravaging poverty gap in the region, create an enabling environment for the youth to have access to finances and jobs and stem the tide of irregular migration to Europe.
These emerged during the talks that held at the ECOWAS Commission on the occasion of the working visit paid by German Foreign Affairs Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel de Souza on October 10.
Welcoming Minister Steinmeier and his delegation to the open forum after a closed door session, President De Souza expressed gratitude for the support that the German government has been giving to ECOWAS. He remarked that ECOWAS would be able to consolidate the progress made in its integration programmes such as Free Movement of goods, persons and services, peace and security. He proposed the setting up of the ECOWAS-Germany Summit.
President De Souza said there is a critical need to balance the demographic growth in West Africa with economic growth so that the progress being made in the latter dimension would be meaningful
The president also expressed concerns over the situation where there is presently an average of 3 percent demographic growth rate while economic growth rate is just about 4 percent. In this regard, he noted that poverty would not be reduced in the region of 320 million if the economic growth does not get as far as 7 to 8 percent over the next two decades.
“And as long as we cannot have economic development, our youth will keep migrating to other regions. We need to sensitize our people that we need to take a good control of our families in terms of birth control” The President added.
On the EPA also, President De Souza assured inquiring journalists at the occasion that progress is being made to get the two remaining countries within ECOWAS to sign the Agreement. He noted that the fears raised which had to do with dumping and the protection of the West Africa market is taken care of by the provision in the Agreement for a gradual opening of the West African market as well. In addition, the resident disclosed that there exists also the possibility of revising some provisions of the Agreement if over a period of 20 years certain fallouts are found to be harmful to the health of the economies of West Africa
Minister Steinmeier restated at the meeting, that cooperation with ECOWAS and other regional organisations in Africa is a priority to Germany in recognition of the fact that investment and trade continues to be an important factor to economic development as well as being an engine room for job creation. He expressed the hope that the coming into Force of the Economic Partnership Agreement will lead to economic progress and that all ECOWAS Member States will create the conditions for the Agreement to enter into force soon in the spirit of partnership.
Commending the progress made so far by ECOWAS in the areas of peace and security, he said his country strives to be an active partner by supporting the civil and military component of the ECOWAS Standby Force.
Calling for concerted efforts to get the Force fully established, he pledged his country’s continuous cooperation with the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, the Ecole de Maintien de la Paix in Mali and the National Defence College in Nigeria while supporting ECOWAS in implementing the Yaoundé Progress on Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Finally, both leaders discussed migration issues. Minister Steinmeier was concerned about the huge number of people crossing the Mediterranean in dangerous conditions to go to Europe and said in this regard that: “closer cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination is necessary to prevent further deaths at sea as agreed on the Valletta Summit in 2015”
— Oct 12, 2016 @ 13:40 GMT