Commemoration of the 44th Anniversary of ECOWAS
MESSAGE OF H.E. Mr JEAN-CLAUDE KASSI BROU PRESIDENT OF THE COMMISSION TO STAFF OF ECOWAS INSTITUTIONS on the occasion of the commemoration of the 44th Anniversary of ECOWAS
As we commemorate the 44th anniversary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 28 May 2019, the duty of remembrance and gratitude beckons us to acknowledge the role of all who strived to make our Economic Community, more than a reality, a shining example of solidarity.
It also affords us an opportunity to reflect on the progress made so far and reaffirm our determination to address the current challenges and leverage future opportunities.
The Economic Community of West African States was established on 28 May 1975 in Lagos upon the signing of the Founding Treaty by the Heads of State and Government.
This was the outcome of several years of consultations by the pioneers, which culminated in the launch of our regional community.
While the original objectives were essentially economic, the revision of the Treaty on 24 July 1993 enhanced ECOWAS’ role, particularly with regard to political, peace and security cooperation in our region.
The Heads of State and Government recognised the need to jointly tackle the challenges facing their countries and pool resources, while respecting their diversity, in order to achieve stability in the region, ensure rapid growth and optimised production, and raise the living standards of the people.
We must remember the course set by the pioneers and continuously embrace it, like the successors of the founding fathers, as a compass to steer our actions and evaluate our progress. Over the years, this has helped our region to continue to make giant strides.
In that regard, we can recall with pride, on the political front, the presidential elections conducted over the past twelve (12) months in Sierra Leone, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. Furthermore, parliamentary elections were held in Togo and Guinea Bissau in accordance with the guidelines of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government. The Commission actively contributed to the conduct of the different polls, which were adjudged to be successful by domestic and international observer missions. Although the recent parliamentary elections in Benin were held amid tension, there is no doubt that democratic governance continues to be strengthened in our region.
On the economic front, growth continues to improve with growth rates above 6% in several countries in 2018. Agricultural and industrial production continues to be boosted. Similarly, our various social programmes in education and health, particularly with the West African Health Organization (WAHO), are being implemented in the different countries, alongside paying due attention to gender issues.
Furthermore, while we recognise that the construction of our common market will require the roll-out of major cross-border infrastructure, we have remained committed to the ongoing Abidjan-Lagos and the Praia-Dakar-Abidjan corridor projects, and enhancing energy- generation capacity.
In the same vein, we are striving to create an enabling regional framework for economic development and investment, through the Macroeconomic Stability and Convergence Pact, implementation of the recently adopted Regional Investment Code, and very soon through the Regional Mining Code and the establishment of the Regional Competition Authority.
In the interest of our populations, with particular regard to women and the youth who form the bedrock of our regional human capital, we are stepping up our efforts to establish a common area of opportunity, free movement and mobility of talent. It is our hope that by so doing, our young people will resist the strong temptation to embark on risky adventures.
The other institutions of the Community, namely the Court of Justice, Parliament, GIABA and WAHO, as well as agencies such as EBID, are also engaged, in their respective fields, in the consolidation of our regional integration.
However, despite these achievements, we are currently facing serious challenges that pose a major threat to the attainment of our integration agenda. In that respect, the most pressing challenge is certainly security. We have all witnessed with great pain the recent terrorist attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which caused the loss of human lives. The attacks targeted communities and even religious groups. I pay tribute to the memory of the deceased, as well as to the victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria. On behalf of the staff of all Institutions and Agencies, and on my own behalf, I offer our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and Governments of the countries concerned.
We can never overemphasise the fact that terrorism and extremism are not limited by borders. They pose a real danger to our region and will spare no country in their wake. We therefore need to collectively address these scourges. The Heads of State and Government actively discuss the matter and the Commission is making every effort in that regard, under the authority of our leaders and in accordance with their guidelines.
Another major challenge we have is to build our common market. We have certainly made clear progress in the free movement of persons and goods, particularly with visa-free travel to Member States for Community citizens. Unfortunately, obstacles and barriers remain, hampering trade and slowing down wealth and job creation. We must fight against all illegal obstacles and make our Community a true common market. The imminent entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area will also offer new opportunities to economic operators in the region.
On the occasion of the 44th anniversary of our Community, I wish to reaffirm my personal commitment, and that of all Heads of Institution, to contribute to the actualisation of the Vision 2020 of an ECOWAS of People, wherein reigns stability, social cohesion and solidarity, for the wellbeing of the citizens.
Furthermore, I would like to pay tribute to the Heads of State and Government for their steadfast dedication and commitment to the regional integration cause. I wish to express my deep gratitude for their support of me in the assignment with which I have been entrusted.
I should also like to thank all public and private sector stakeholders for their faith in regional integration and our development partners for the generous and effective support they give for our programme implementation.
Finally, while I commend staff members of ECOWAS institutions and agencies for their decisive contributions to our progress along the path of integration, I would encourage all to continue to work actively for this noble cause.
Long live ECOWAS!