Efforts to accelerate the process of Regional Integration in West Africa have received a further boost, following a tripartite meeting between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the World Bank Group.
After two days of consultations held in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, the three institutions agreed to strengthen their cooperation in order to boost the overall development of West Africa, which has more than 300 million people.
Most of the states in the sub-region have good economic prospects, potential natural resources and a young population. These are real opportunities.
However, there are major challenges, including low reliability of the transport systems, electricity, combined with the existence of numerous barriers to the movement of goods, capital and persons within the sub-region, said Marie-Francoise Marie Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria and regional programs coordinator for West Africa.
She noted that development and trans-border security issues, in the Sahel region, in particular, require leadership and political will of the ECOWAS leaders.
Makhtar Diop, World Bank Africa Region Vice-President, on his part, urged participants to speed up implementation of the sub-regional agenda to meet the development expectations of the citizens of the sub-region.
Kadré Desiré Ouedraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission reiterated that "a great deal of effort has been made to integrate the sub region, despite many constraints. We now need to accelerate the process through transformative and priority projects for our region, regarding notably security and stability, the free flow of goods and people, improving infrastructure such as energy and transport, the revival of agriculture and development capabilities."
UEMOA Representative, Mr. Christopher Joseph Dabiré, said that his institution will be more involved in the resolution of political and security crises that threaten the future of the sub-region.
At the conclusion of the meeting, participants welcomed the progress made so far and agreed to intensify their efforts in six major thematic areas, namely: energy, agriculture and trade, transport, security in the Sahel, Business Climate and Centers of Excellence.
Among their recommendations included the implementation of reforms in Air Transport, and the removal of constraints of cost and inter-connectivity.
On Energy, the need to unleash the potential of energy production of some member states and improve the performance of distribution companies was suggested by the institutions.
While in the Sahel, they called for the need to coordinate different approaches and development interventions in the Sahel by regional institutions.
With regard to agriculture, the urgency in the implementation of regional agricultural policies that promote competition and market integration, according to the institutions.
Under Business Environment and Trade facilitation, they say the need to promote intra-African markets, a strong political will to overcome the barriers and obstacles to the movement of goods sub-region is paramount.
The Abidjan meeting was part of efforts support to the implementation of the regional strategy for poverty reduction developed jointly by ECOWAS and UEMOA in 2006 and the ECOWAS Vision 2020 which aspires to building a borderless, peaceful and prosperous sub-region.
With regard to World Bank interventions, the Bank has provided nearly $ 1.8 billion in investment lending for regional operations in West Africa, and has leveraged significant co-financing from other donor and private sector partners.
The Bank s operations are also in line with priorities of the Regional Integration Assistance Strategy (RIAS) for Sub-Saharan Africa adopted in 2008.
These are expanding regional infrastructure, strengthening institutional mechanisms for cooperation and the provision of regional public goods.