The maiden Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Industrial Summit was held in Accra last week with a call on the leaders of the regional community to strive to change the financing mechanisms that impede on the region’s industrial development.
President John Mahama who made the call in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Ekow Spio-Garbrah, said access to finance was critical to support private sector players to venture to value addition of the region’s natural resources.
“We need to convert some of our financial institutions from short term lenders for commercial transactions to long term financiers of industrial projects especially those which add value to our natural resources,” he said.
The day’s summit hosted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry was on the theme “Promoting Investment to Accelerate the Industrialisation of the West African Sub-Region” was to create a platform for dialogue and networking to discuss the West African Common Industrial Policy (WACIP).
President Mahama explained that value addition to the numerous natural resources from the ECOWAS region could create more jobs and reduce poverty.
“For example, transforming West Africa’s mineral export volumes by just five per cent before exporting them could create five million jobs a year,” he said, adding that “recent estimate shows that African countries spend more than $30 billion a year to import processed foods and this trend can be reversed through added agro-processing, creating countless jobs, especially for our growing youth population.”
President Mahama entreated the participants to come out with ideas and strategies what would help increased the intra-community trade in West Africa from the less than 12 per cent to at least 40 per cent by 2030.
The National President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Dr Bassey E.O Edem, expressed regret about the low trade among the ECOWAS member countries, unlike their European counterparts, stressing the current volume of trade among the ECOWAS member states stood at 10 per cent.
Dr Edem lauded the MOTI for organising the summit and said it had created a forum for non-state actors to make input into the African industrialisation programme and come out with proposals to promote trade among the ECOWAS member states.
James Asare-Adjei, the president of the Association of Ghana Industries, in his remark, said the ECOWAS regional integration agenda should be geared towards trade rather than politics.
He expressed regret about the low intra-regional trade among the ECOWAS member countries, saying for instance that, trade between Ghana and her neighbours stood at six per cent, and the current low trade volume was not encouraging.
The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Marcel Alain De Souza, in a speech read on his behalf said his outfit was happy to be associated with the programme and indicated that improved cooperation among the member-states would help improve trade for businesses in the sub-region to thrive.
He disclosed that his outfit was setting up a Regional Investment Fund for Agriculture to provide financial resources for players in the agricultural industry.
Mrs Kodeidja Diallo, the Director in-charge of Private Sector Department of the African Development Bank, said the industrialisation summit was timely for the bank, saying ” industrialisation for ECOWAS is a must and not an option” to help reduce the region’s dependence on the export of raw materials.
She said the Board of the AfDB recently approved the bank’s Industrial Policy to support the industrialisation agenda of ECOWAS, saying the bank allocated $2.5 billion to support the private sector.
Mrs Diallo disclosed that the bank was developing an Industrial Cluster through public private partnership to help industries in the region to grow.
In attendance at the summit were Ministers of State from some of the ECOWAS member States, Members of the Diplomatic Community, international organisations, investors and representatives of the business community.
By Kingsley Asare and Helena Cromwell