Regional integration, catalyst for re-igniting Africa’s economy- ECOWAS

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission and the World Bank say regional integration is a possible catalyst to reignite Africa’s economic growth engine.

Both organisations said this at the conclusion of a high-level consultation meeting on regional integration in Abuja on Wednesday.

In a statement, Olufunke Olufon, Senior Communications Officer, World Bank, Nigeria, said the meeting also assessed whether West Africa was currently reaping the full benefits of integration.

She said the discussion was part of a series of consultations the World Bank Group was organising across the continent on its new Regional Integration and Cooperation Assistance Strategy.

The World Bank has current commitments of over 10 billion dollars in support of regional integration programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa and plans to scale-up support over the next three years.

ECOWAS Commission President, Mr Marcel De Souza, said the new World Bank strategy was well aligned to the priorities of the commission and its member states.

He said this was most especially with focus on priority economic corridors, energy, promoting agricultural value chains, education and skills development.

“ECOWAS is a leader on several aspects of regional integration, but our people want to see removal of further barriers.

“The prize is big and when we allow greater intra-Africa trade in agriculture, we can avoid a massive spike in our food import bill.

“It will also give better incomes for our farmers and allowing the food processing industry to create new jobs.

“The focus on priority economic corridors, energy and promoting agricultural value chains all resonate with what we want to do.”

Mr Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said the new strategy which would soon be discussed by the board, was aimed to support the second and third-generation integration efforts.

Benmessaoud, who is also the Coordinating Director for West Africa Regional Integration Programme, said the bank had committed over five billion dollars in financing regional energy infrastructure.

“Now is the right time to focus on building the legal, regulatory and risk financing arrangements so that the West Africa Power Pool can gain full confidence of the selling and buying countries.

“This could be instrumental in helping unlock the huge power generation capacity in the region and rapidly improve access to energy,” he said.

Both sides, however, agreed to further deepen the dialogue and collaboration on regional integration and align their efforts. (NAN)