Arguably, one of the reasons for the inauguration of Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) is to enhance commercial activities within the sub-region. Several activities of the commission in recent times have also underscored the desire of the member states to emancipate the sub-region from hindrances to free trade.
For instance, the President of the commission, Mr Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, recently recognised the benefits from the African Development Bank's support of $15 million for peace and development project in the region. The focus of the commission has been that peace and stability in the sub-region should be sustained to ensure economic development.
"Peace and security is a prerequisite for socio-economic development and it is within this context that we sincerely appreciate the support of AfDB and other development partners", he said while receiving a delegation from the bank in Abuja. All the same, the ECOWAS common investment market states that it desires to anticipate structural adjustment needed in the course of economic policy implementation and assess their consequences to guarantee investment friendly community. To achieve this, it says it will monitor market function and performance, both at a sectoral and economy wide level including through sector specific enquiries. According to a statement from the commission, regional citizens, companies, local and regional authorities should be convinced to invest in the many opportunities ECOWAS would offer in this regard.
"They should be able to find clear answers to their various questions or problems through the harmonisation/ simplification of the various policies affecting investment into a single code for the community in a transparent manner", it stated. It further said that this would facilitate the dissemination of the required information to improve communication of the single investment market initiative to the stakeholders and to publicise the opportunities offered by ECOWAS common investment market.
In addition to this effort, the ECOWAS Bank for International Improvement (EBID) says it plans to invest more than $1.5 billion into the economy of the sub-region under its 2010-2014 strategic plans aimed at improving key sectors to promote socio-economic increase. The bank envisages injecting about "300 million per annum into the economy of the sub-region for financing of projects, both in the public and the private sectors, according to a statement.
The priority areas are infrastructure, rural development and private sector promotion, while the areas of intervention include infrastructure improvement, rural development, industry and service, social sector development and promotion of clean development mechanism projects and sustainable development.
According to the statement, the sub-regional bank's projected new commitments for the years will total $1.5 billion while new loans are expected to amount to about $1.35 billion. "Guarantees and equity participation will amount to $142.5 million and $47.5 million, respectively. "Based on the projections of the new Strategic Plan adopted by the Board of Governors, the resources to be mobilised for the period 2010-2014 amounted to nearly $1,800 million", it stated.
In addition, the bank since 2004 has mobilised about $677 million from technical partners and on the capital markets in the sub-region. The major external sources include the government of India, Industrial Development Corporation of U.S., the West African Economic and Monetary Union financial market, and Arabic Bank for Economic Development of Africa.
The current objective is to mobilise funds from the Nigerian and Ghanaian financial markets. The document stated: "The economic development of the region is undeniably linked to its industrialisation, mainly steered by the private sector. "The EBID, in its strategy of financing, will place emphasis not only on roads, railways, ports and energy infrastructure, but also on the development of a diversified and competitive industrial base including the re-enforcement of a dynamic and healthy intra-regional trade." The EBID has made total net commitments of more $991,928,820 in favour of member states of ECOWAS as at December 31, 2011. The statement said the board of directors of the bank had approved the granting of 138 financial assistance totalling $1.45 billion.
As regards commitments by the member countries during the period, the Francophone nations ranked the highest contributors while Ghana led the Anglophone member states. With its headquarters in Lome, capital of Togo, the EBID became operational on January 1, 2004 with the vision to become the leading regional investment and development finance institution, which serves as an instrument for fighting poverty, creating employment and engendering wealth. Its mission is to contribute to the realisation of the objectives of the community through the financing of regional infrastructure, integration projects and trade including other development projects in the public and private sectors. As laudable as the ECOWAS' mission looks like, a Nigerian industrialist, Alhaji Bashir Borodo, has critically examined the policies and raised concern about the methodology of the programmes.
At a forum in Ghana, Borodo said in order to reverse the not too encouraging status of ECOWAS in global trade, it is very important that the member states continue to initiate measures to build bridges of development, investment and trade cooperation outside the national borders, region and continent. He said in pursuing this initiative, caution should be adopted so as not to destroy the national economies and the common and shared vision on regional integration. '
"The frenzy of globalisation should not be allowed to deepen the wedge, which had widened the lack of investment and trade cooperation among countries in our sub-region in the past", he cautioned.