By Racheal Ishaya
The African Union (AU) has commended the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for successfully promoting sustainable economic development policies affecting over 300 million people living in the West African region.
The Commissioner for Economic Affairs at the AU, Prof. Victor Harrison made this known while briefing ministers of finance and economic planners on the status of regional integration in Africa.
The briefing was part of proceedings at the Third Session of the Specialised Technical Committee of the AU on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration holding in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Harrison said that the objective of the report was to assess the African integration process by highlighting key achievements, challenges, recommendations with respect to the various dimensions of the Regional Integration Index.
He said that the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons was considered as one of the significant achievements made by ECOWAS.
The AU commissioner further said that ECOWAS had made positive strides in the harmonisation of macroeconomic policies, implementation of the Common External Tariff, multilateral surveillance, and youth empowerment.
He commended ECOWAS for its policies on trade liberalisation, customs union, favourable industrial policy, mines development, agriculture and telecommunications.
“ECOWAS has also implemented several key infrastructure projects including major regional roads, railways, and oil pipelines.
“ECOWAS should also be commended for pioneering a self-financing initiative for supporting regional integration programmes, thereby reducing heavy reliance on donors.
“However, some of the challenges that the ECOWAS faces include: insecurity and terrorists attacks, macroeconomic policy harmonisation, poor infrastructure networks, limited funding for regional integration, and human capacity constraints,’’ he said
According to Harrison, the AU recommends mobilisation of necessary funding to urgently address the persistent security problems caused by Boko Haram and ISIS insurgents in the region.
The AU commissioner listed the Regional Economic Communities it recognised to include the Arab Maghreb Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Community for Sahel-Saharan States, East African Community, and Economic Community of Central African States.
Others, Harrison said are the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Southern African Development Community and ECOWAS.
The AU Commissioner gave an update on each of the regional community focusing on their strengths, challenges and way forward. (NAN)