Abuja-Nigeria — ECOWAS and America's GE Corporation are to explore areas of cooperation, including in energy projects and infrastructure development to boost regional trade integration.
This was a key outcome of a meeting between officials of the ECOWAS Commission and a GE delegation which paid a courtesy call on the Commission's Vice President, Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh in Abuja on Thursday, 16th May 2013.
Receiving the four-member delegation led by Mr. Karan Bhatia, GE's Vice President and Senior Counsel, Global Government Affairs and Policy, Dr. McIntosh, on behalf of the President of the Commission, said the new management at the Commission was calibrating its priorities for effective balance between peace and security and economic development, to deliver on its mandate.
He explained that the inability of individual countries to harness the region's vast resources makes integration inevitable, and especially through public- private partnerships.
The Vice President named energy, transportation, oil and gas, health care and capacity building, as the potential areas of collaboration and partnership between ECOWAS and GE.
Both sides agreed that the point of entry for this partnership could be through the programmes and activities of the Cape Verde-based ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREE) and other non-carbon based energy projects, including hydro and solar.
They also agreed that potential areas of engagement could be through trade expansion and integration leveraging on the Commission's investment friendly policy and investment code, which will soon be finalized.
On oil and gas, Dr. McIntosh said the extension of the West African Gas Pipeline Project to more ECOWAS Member States is in progress and GE would be invited to join other partners if the need arises.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Bhatia said that GE shared ECOWAS' goals on regional integration, which are in consonance with the company's shift in focus in the past five years to infrastructure, including the manufacturing and construction of power generation plants, health care equipment suited to the West African market, as well as aviation assets, and oil and gas.
For GE with an asset base of US$160 billion, "it is not just about market and trade, we are also involved in human capacity development," he said, adding that this was necessary to create the requisite indigenous capacity that will drive economic growth and regional integration.
Both sides agreed to follow up discussions on the areas of cooperation and mutually beneficial partnerships.
Mr. Bhatia is on a two-day visit to Nigeria for talks with various business leaders and stakeholders in the country.
Also on the GE delegation were Mr. Nils Tcheyan, Director, Government Affairs and Policy, GE Africa, Mr. Del Renigar, Senior Counsel, Global Government Affairs and Policy, Africa, Middle East and South Asia, and Mr. Olaseni Ashiru, Government Affairs and Policy, West Africa.
On the ECOWAS side were Mr. Alfred Braimah, Director, Private Sector, and officials from the External Relations and Communication Directorates.