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COVID-19: West African Countries Need To Look Within For Economic Survival, Says ECOWAS

Countries in West Africa need to look within the subregion for survival with the growing threat of COVID-19 pandemic, the Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of the Republic of Ghana, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey,

Botchwey said in order to advance regional integration in the West African sub-region, member countries of ECOWAS need to build resilience against terrorist attacks, health crisis and climate change.

She gave the advice during the 87th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in Abuja on Thursday.

Botchwey, who said the year 2021 has been particularly busy at the regional level, with several Extraordinary Councils of Ministers and Summits, noted that there was ominous signs of vitality and also a manifestation of a community beset by challenges.

She however added that the regional body can take satisfaction from the fact that the ECOWAS region faced those challenges resolutely and have made consistent efforts to address them.

Botchwey further said the solidarity of action of ECOWAS member states and the collective determination to move forward have enabled the sub-region to improve its resilience in facing both the health and security shocks, saying that as a result, the sub-region expected improved economic growth relative to 2020.

She said: “In order to advance our regional integration agenda and transform the lives of Community citizens, we need to continue to build resilience and enhance our integration programme. This is particularly necessary with respect to the following threats: The health crisis of the Coronavirus which persists and has completely changed our way of life. With the new variant and the risk of a new wave and several countries closing their borders, we must rely more than ever on our regional solidarity.

“The recurrence of terrorist attacks in the frontline countries of the Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria) with its many victims and to which the response at this time is the diligent implementation of our plan of action against terrorism to support and complement national efforts.

“Climate change, which is a constraint on the regional integration process and against which we must undertake an ecological transition, with, for example, renewable energies, and an adapted agricultural policy,” Botchwey said.

Botchwey further said by working together on all the issues confronting the region, the prospects for success are significantly enhanced and would create the conditions for a thriving region.

On the political situation in the sub-region, Botchwey said the ECOWAS region has recorded significant achievements in the area of democracy and governance.

She also said the recent elections in Cabo Verde and The Gambia, after those of Niger and Benin, were examples of the dynamism of the region’s democracy.

Botchwey however said the breaches in constitutional order in Guinea and Mali have undermined the progress of the region and pose significant risks.

“In this regard, the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS have taken very strong measures to ensure the restoration of constitutional order in those countries. One of the key decisions at the Extraordinary ECOWAS Summit on the situations in Mali and Guinea held in Accra, on 7th November, 2021, was the agreement to revise our Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. A report on the work done so far on the proposals for revision of the Protocol will be presented to the Authority of Heads of State and Government during the Authority on 12th December, 2021,” Botchwey stated.

On his part, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, said as the year 2021 drew to a close, the activities of the ECOWAS institutions have taken place in a global and regional context still marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it raisesd, particularly with regards to the emergence of the new variant, Omicron, the risks of a new wave, and inequalities in access to vaccines.

Brou added that on the security front, the ECOWAS region is still painfully marked by deadly terrorist attacks.

“On behalf of the institutions and staff of ECOWAS, I respectfully bow to the memory of the innocent victims who have unfortunately been unjustly torn from the affection of their loved ones in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. To these victims must be added those of the accidents that occurred in Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

“In addition to the devastating effects of this security crisis, there are the ravages of climate-related natural disasters, particularly floods.

“On the political front, the credibility of the recent elections in Cape Verde and The Gambia, as well as those in Niger and Benin, attest to the vitality of democracy in our region. Nevertheless, the challenges of the transition in Mali and Guinea must be met to enable these two brotherly countries to resume their place within the Community,” Brou said.