Members of the Economic Community of West African States are in a three-day meeting in Lome, Togo to work on modalities that will attract investments to the region
| By Maureen Chigbo | Jul. 14, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, wants member states to adopt its newly developed regional investment climate monitoring mechanism and undertake relevant reform initiatives to improve the policy environment so as to optimise the benefits of a common investment market in the region.
“In the past several years, the ECOWAS region has witnessed increased inflows of global foreign direct investment facilitated by the market size and natural resource endowments of the region, which make possible broader investment frontiers and relatively higher return on investment,” Kalilou Traore, ECOWAS commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, told a stakeholders’ meeting on the ECOWAS Investment Climate Indicators Report, which opened inLomé, Togo on Wednesday July 2.
He, however, noted that investment in the region still faced many challenges including unpredictable regulatory and policy environment, lack of quality production infrastructure, lack of access to or high cost of finance as well as difficult land administration structures and title registration processes, which affect the cost of doing business, influence investor perception and therefore the quantum and quality of investment inflow into the region.
The result, according to Traore, is that West Africa “is receiving less than its optimal share of global investment inflows, than it would have, were all these factors to operate effectively and efficiently; and the environment more conducive.”
Consequently, he said that private sector operators had advocated for the measurement of 19 key indicators captured in the ECOWAS Investment Climate Monitoring Indicators Report 2012. While the survey might not have thrown up anything strange or unknown in the region, the commissioner said the documented facts were meant to draw the attention of policy makers to the implications of the issues raised for the business environment, while also providing relevant information on the areas requiring fundamental reforms across the region.
The findings, he said also provided relevant information to assist investors in assessing their prospective locations and planning of their operations within the region.
According to him, the three-day stakeholders’ sensitisation meeting would not only to present the report, but would also serve as a Public-Private Dialogue platform between government operatives and the private sector on how to collaborate to improve the indices, going forward.
Traore, therefore, urged participants to focus on the issues highlighted in the report and come out with regional and national strategies to ensure that the indicators to be reformed were improved upon in the shortest possible time.
In his opening remarks, Alfred Braimah, ECOWAS director of Private Sector, set the tone for the deliberations by quoting the latest World Bank Doing Business Report as it relates to West Africa. He also outlined the process used in implementing the project with the ECOWAS private sector actors as key drivers of the process, noting that apart from Cape Verde, most ECOWAS Member States faced serious business challenges, especially in the critical areas of Small and Middle Enterprises, SMEs, which constitute the engine of economic growth.
Braimah said a critical analysis of the Investment Climate Indicators report, prepared with the support of the EU-Business Climate facility, could help explain why in spite of its abundant human and natural resources West Africa is unable to attract sufficient good and quality investments.
He also expressed the need for a framework for benchmarking the regional investment climate and make it consistent with the movement towards the ECOWAS Common Investment Market, ECIM, through the adoption of Common External Tariff, CET, and eventually, a coordinated investment policy space.
The meeting is being attended by public and private sector investment operators from within and outside the region, including representatives of the Federation of West African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FEWACCI, regional organisations such as the West African Business Association, WABA, Federation of Business Women and Entrepreneurs in West Africa, FEBWE, Federation of West African Manufacturers Associations, FEWAMA, as well as resource persons and ECOWAS officials.