We must produce COVID-19 vaccines – Pres urges West African leaders

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo yesterday opened the 60th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and urged members to rigorously pursue national and regional efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

He called on the community to move rapidly into the domestic production of vaccines for the protection of its citizens, and for the growth and development of the economies of the bloc.

The meeting which is being held within the confines of a ravaging pandemic and increased threats from terrorist groups, will deliberate and take decisions on political, socio-economic and security issues affecting the region.

As of December 8, 2021, the region has recorded 674,556 cases of infections, with some 10,000 deaths, impacting humanitarian, social and economic sectors. 

 The community risk a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with the emergence of the Omicron variant that has been found in three member states.

The President said it was unfortunate that the discovery of the new variant, Omicron, in the region had led to impositions of travel bans by some countries, “which are unjustified and unacceptable.”

“Meanwhile, the availability of vaccines continues to remain a problem. Despite our efforts, we have only six per cent of our population receiving one dose, with two per cent of the population fully vaccinated.

“While we remain grateful for the support from friends of the community, we must continue to pursue national and regional efforts to fight COVID-19, and move rapidly into the domestic production of vaccines for the protection of our citizens, and for the growth and development of our economies,” he told the members of the bloc.

President Akufo-Addo condemned the security trials in the region, particularly the deadly terrorist and kidnapping attacks in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, that has caused many casualties amongst civilians and security forces, resulting in a significant number of displaced persons.

He told the gathering that significant efforts are being made, at both national and regional levels, to fight terrorism and extremism. 

“We must step up our efforts to deal with these tasks which have been imposed upon us, and we must act in such a way that no one will doubt our resolve to protect our peoples, and the peace and stability of our countries,” he said.

The President congratulated the governments and people of Cape Verde and the Gambia for the successful conduct of their elections, which were credible, peaceful and transparent, despite the recent events in the region.

He said the Abuja meeting will firm up remedies for the transitions challenges in Mali and Guinea, who have been suspended from membership of ECOWAS, and welcomed the recent release of President Alpha Conde. 

“We will have the opportunity during our closed session to examine the political transition in both countries, and assess the next steps to take to help them on the path back to constitutional, democratic order, within the agreed deadlines.”

President Akufo-Addo thanked his counterparts for the support that enabled Ghana succeed in her bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the years 2022 and 2023. 

“Indeed, on the day, because of your support, Ghana obtained the highest votes. We will make sure that Africa’s voice is heard loud and clear in the deliberations of the Council, both on matters affecting the continent and on global issues, and we will consult broadly to define Africa’s interests. 

“It will be the position of Ghana, on the Council, that, having regard to the conflicts in our region and continent, now is not the time for the Security Council to reduce the number of peacekeeping operations on the continent. 

On the contrary, it should look to increasing them. The international community must not be caught in a “penny wise, pound foolish” scenario,” he stated.

The President urged the Community to remain “united, and pool our resources and energies to accelerate and strengthen our regional integration.” 

“Our commitment to this goal has allowed us to tackle successfully most of the obstacles we have faced. Solidarity has been the backbone and the strength of our Community during our 46 years of existence, and it is needed now,” he said.

The meeting will consider among others, the 2021 ECOWAS Annual Report, the 

Report of 47th Ordinary Meeting of the Mediation and Security Council and the 

Report of 87th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Minister’s. 

The session will see the Authority of Heads of State and Governments make a declaration on Climate Change, and the appointment of an ECOWAS Champion for the return of cultural artifacts. 

It will also consider a special report on the ECOWAS Single Currency programme to be delivered by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, Chair of the Ministerial Committee on the Single Currency.

Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Chair of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers will present the Report of the Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers on Proposals for the allocation of Statutory Positions of a 7-Member Commission, its Organisational Chart and the streamlining of Operational Costs. -GNA

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