Monday, September 19, 2011

President Jonathan opens 2nd ECOWAS investment forum in Lagos

President Goodluck Jonathan

19 Sep 2011 07:22 Africa/Lagos

President Jonathan opens 2nd ECOWAS investment forum in Lagos

ABUJA, September 19, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria on Thursday, 15th September 2011 called on Member States to facilitate regional economic integration through the pursuit of policies that would promote the realization of the common market initiative encapsulated in the organization's Vision 2020 project.

Opening the 2nd ECOWAS Investment Forum in Lagos themed, “Showcasing Investment and Financial opportunities in ECOWAS”, President Jonathan who was represented by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, said ECOWAS Member States should foster stronger ties with investors across the globe to maximize the investment potentials and opportunities that abound in the region.

“West Africa has shown a lot of promise given the various economic and political reforms that a number of our Member States have embarked upon,” he said. “Unfortunately, however, available statistics show that we are still highly marginalized in the global trade and investment flows”.

Despite the challenges, the ECOWAS Chairman expressed the hope that with a combined population of some 300 million and gross domestic product of about US$290 billion, “ECOWAS is a market to reckon with in any multilateral discussion”, adding that West Africa has the potential to become “an economic union sooner than expected”.

In his keynote address, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, enumerated factors that make West Africa, the preferred investors' destination. These include low risk profile, abundant natural resources, strong labour force, above-average return on investment, emerging stable and democratic Members pursing the values of transparency and accountability.

“I consider this Forum timely, apt and desirable as a platform for investor enlightenment on the investment potentials and incentives in the region”, affirmed Ambassador Gbeho, who was represented by the Commission's Vice-President, Mr. Jean de Dieu Somda.

According to him, initiatives by the Commission to fast-track regional economic integration include the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) which is meant to boost intra-Community trade, the adoption of a Common External Tariff (CET), a five-band tariff regime for imports into the region and the harmonization of investment laws under the Common Market.

Senator Roland Kaine, who represented the Government of Liberia, commended the strides made by ECOWAS in the “harmonization and coordination of national polices and the promotion of integration programmes, projects and activities such as the CET, the Common Currency for West Africa's Monetary zone and the West African Common Market”.

He listed measures taken by the Government to make the business climate conducive in Liberia and thanked Nigeria for always standing by his country “in times of difficulty”.

In his goodwill message, the President, Association of Investment Promotion Agencies of West African States (IPAWAS), Engineer Mustapha Bello, said the organization was pursing regional economic development through public-private-partnership initiatives in order to attract foreign direct investment, create jobs and reduce poverty.

Cote d'Ivoire's Minister of African Integration, Adama Bictogo, who was represented by Ambassador Tanoe Kone, thanked the ECOWAS Commission and Member States for their support during the country's political crisis.

He said a special investment forum would be staged in the first quarter of 2012 to showcase the country's business opportunities.

Participants at the forum include public and private sector actors from within and outside the ECOWAS region.

Organized by the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with IPAWAS and the West African Bankers Association (WABA), the two-day Forum seeks to harmonize the platform for investment promotion in the region and access to the synergy of cooperation.

The other objectives include promoting investment across the region and providing a platform for the sharing of experiences among investment promotion agencies in Member States, showcasing the ECOWAS investment climate to the world, and providing a window for vertical and horizontal integration of private sector activities.

The first ECOWAS Investment Forum held in Brussels, Belgium in 2010, drew investors and other stakeholders from across the globe and generated a great interest around the investment potentialities in West Africa

Source: Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)

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