The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, has expressed optimism that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has the real opportunity to emerge as regional economic power.
This, he said, could be achieved by engineering an economic transformation through an industrialisation process that capitalises on the resources endowment, human capital and access to Information Communication Technology.
Mr. Spio-Garbrah, was addressing the opening o f ECOWAS industry experts and ministerial meetings in Accra to address the revised strategy for industrial development and other related issues.
The ECOWAS adopted the West Africa Common Industrial Policy at the 28th Ordinary Session of Authority of Head of State and Government in July 2010, with specific objectives to realise sub-regional industrialisation.
The objective of the five-day meeting is to present to the national experts, and ministers of industry of member countries , including other key stakeholders the ECOWAS industry strategy review, ECOWAS quality infrastructure programme, regional pharmaceutical industry plan, facilitation of industrial development through a value chain approach, ECOWAS industry forum and agro industrial cluster approach.
The minister said Africa had not been able to realise its industrial potential due largely to a number of issues including the colonial policy which left infrastructure designed to enhance resources extraction rather than adding value and external reforms imposed on it.
Mr. Spio-Garbrah, added “most African countries exhibited inadequate leadership and creativity in the sector of industrial development and strategic planning”.
He said “these challenges are now behind us”, adding, “we need to draw on the lessons and evidence elsewhere and within ECOWAS of what have actually worked to transform development prospects”.
“We shall need to rethink policy strategies and programmes and identify innovative, pragmatic and effective ways that will spur on sustainable economic growth and development,” the minister said.
“Establishment of appropriate industry-related policy, institutional and regulatory framework at both national and regional levels are vital to our development,” he added.
Mr. Spio-Garbrah, expressed the need for ECOWAS to harmonise common standards for products adding that the ability to meet international standards and norms were key elements of global competitiveness.
He said a situation where each member state had its own standard did not foster trade and integration among member states saying “as we move forward we must be able to develop a common mechanism to certify our products”.
The minister said capacity building in standards must be aimed at not only at improving the quality and enhancing Africa’s access to the markets of developed countries, but also at preventing the influx of substandard and injurious products into the sub-region.
Mr. Spio-Garbrah underscored the need to ensure peace and tranquility in the sub region for socio economic development of the sub region for the benefits of the citizens.
By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman