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West African Leaders create an illusive custom duty for the sub region envisaged to kickoff in 2015, By Chofor Che, 28 October 2013


Leaders of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) met on the 25 of October 2013 in Dakar Senegal for an extraordinary summit almost devoted to economic issues to strengthen regional integration. According to Stephane Ballong, Special envoy of Jeune Afrique in a publication dated the 26 of October 2013, this meeting was regarded by the host, President Macky Sall as a historic one. The leaders of ECOWAS states adopted a Common External Tariff (CET) for all fifteen Member States of the Community. Concretely, this means that from the date of application of this new customs duty scheduled to kick off in January 2015, once customs duties are levied on goods at the entrance of one of the states in the sub -region, these goods will be able to move freely in all other states in the sub-region. This will equally allow foreign business partners have access to a market of over 300 million people of the ECOWAS community.

The leaders of ECOWAS states also put in place an additional tax, which regulates importation and protects local production. A tax was also instituted which warrants that member states make some financial contributions to hasten Africa’s regional integration. Ballong of Jeune Afrique concurs that the realisation of this new customs duty planned since the inception of ECOWAS in 1975, is also a strong argument that the community can use in trade negotiations. “Thanks to the Common External Tariff, we now form a solid competitive block”, affirmed Alassane Ouattara, the Ivorian Head of State and Chairman of ECOWAS. According to Kadré Desire Ouedraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS states will be able to accelerate trade and financial negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that will give guidance on trade with the European Union. EPA is supposed to replace the Cotonou Agreement in force since June 2000 and allow products from states in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) have privilege access to European markets. The Cotonou Agreement contrary to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules did not allow Africans to develop their business and diversify their economies. Some economists argue that EPA should not only comply with international standards, but also take into account the development dimension of African economies.

The ECOWAS summit in Senegal was a very ambitious one especially with respect to regional integration. Having a single custom duty for the whole sub region is a laudable idea, but will the statesmen of these nations respect the conditions of this newly created customs duty? The responsibility of ensuring that this dream reaches fruition lies in the hands of the leaders of the ECOWAS region. ECOWAS states are still plagued with ills such as corruption. Taxes still remain very high in these ECOWAS states. The private sectors in most of the ECOWAS states remain poorly organised. Decentralisation remains an illusion in some of these states especially as central governments still continue to carry out functions traditionally associated with regional and local governments. Leaving these ills unresolved and instituting a sub regional custom duty will thus be a waste of time because come 2015, these very states that agreed to institute such a custom duty will find fault in it. It is thus germane for African leaders to put the horse before the cart and stop wasting tax payers money by organising summits which produce no fruit. It is important for every African state and most especially ECOWAS states to first of all put in place institutions of transparency and good governance, revamp the private sector, before agreeing on a custom duty for the sub region. If not we may just have another scenario of empty promises.

– See more at: http://africanliberty.org/content/finally-common-external-tariff-west-africa-%E2%80%93-chofor-che#sthash.Q8px7TGt.dpuf

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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Prospects for the creation of a common currency zone for ECOWAS – By Chofor Che, 13 August 2013


The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) known in French as Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, (CEDEAO) is a sub regional grouping of fifteen West African states. Member states include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. According to Wikipedia lastly modified on 5 August 2013, Cape Verde joined ECOWAS in 1976, and in December 2000 Mauritania withdrew, having announced its intention to do so in December 1999.

ECOWAS was created on 28 May 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos. Its mission is to promote and facilitate economic integration across the sub region. ECOWAS which makes use of three official languages, French, English, and Portuguese, also plays an important role in peace keeping operations.

Being a very important pillar of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was created in order to make its member states economically and financially self sufficient especially with the creation of a single large trading bloc. Despite such intentions the sub regional grouping seems not to have met these intentions.

ECOWAS is made up of two institutions to assist it in policy implementation -the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, formerly called the Fund for Cooperation until it was renamed in 2001 and the ECOWAS Commission.

Some members of ECOWAS have organised meetings in a bid to strengthen the sub regional grouping. The 44th meeting for governors of the central banks of member states of ECOWAS took place on Friday the 26 July 2013 in Accra Ghana. During this meeting, several issues including the need for a common currency zone of the Economic Community for West African States were discussed upon by Head of states of these member states.

In line with an article published on Éclair d’Afrique.com dated the 12 August 2013, Mr. Tiémoko Meyliet Koné governor of the Central Bank of West African states who presided over this reunion acknowledged the lack of macro economic momentum which exists between member states of ECOWAS and the need to have a unique monetary zone to bridge this gap. He remarked that a lack of a single currency makes it difficult for member states to effectively monitor their economic progress in the sub region.

In the ECOWAS sub region, various currencies are in use creating a sub region plagued by an unstable currency cacophony. In Ghana the cedi is utilised, in Nigeria the Naira is in use, the Leone is used in Sierra Leone, the dalasi used in the Gambia, the Liberian Dollar in Liberia, the Escudo in Cape Verde and the franc guinéen in Guinea.

It is indeed a wonderful idea to converge in a bid to have a single currency for the sub region. Having various currencies in the sub region is indeed an impediment to sub regional integration and economic growth. A single currency for ECOWAS states as well as a reduction in trade barriers will go a long way in boosting the economies of member states and the sub region as a whole. All the same there remain concerns as to such a dream attaining fruition. France which still has a strong grip on some of the member states in Africa and especially in this sub region has always decided on the economic and financial atmosphere of some of these states and thus benefits enormously from the cacophony that exist in the sub region. With this state of affairs it may be a daunting task for ECOWAS top executives to make such a move as to having a single currency. Despite such concerns it is time for ECOWAS to take the bold step and create a single currency so as to propel the sub region forward. Such moves may revamp the economies of member states, the sub region and catapult the continent towards a quicker renaissance.

This article is syndicated by Africanliberty at: http://africanliberty.org/content/prospects-creation-common-currency-zone-ecowas-chofor-che#sthash.xkj3SzC1.kCkl3rtU.dpuf

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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A holistic approach may be vital in combating insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, by Chofor Che


Cameroon will on June 24 to 25, 2013 welcome Heads of state and other world leaders for the first ever international meeting on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. In his announcement on June 17 2013, Cameroon’s Minister of Communications, Issa Tchiroma said Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) member countries, United Nations (UN) representatives; African Union (AU) and Interpol officials will attend the summit.

The Gulf of Guinea is found in the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia and Cape Lopez in Gabon. Among the many rivers that flow into the Gulf of Guinea are the Volta and the Niger . The coastline on the Gulf includes the Bight of Bonny and the Bight of Benin. Organic sediments were deposited especially by the Niger River into the waters of the Gulf of Guinea over millions of years which became crude oil. According to Wikipedia, lastly modified on June 15 2013, the Gulf of Guinea region, along with Angola and the Congo River delta are expected to provide around a quarter of the United States of America’ oil imports by 2015. This region is now considered as one of the world’s top oil and gas exploration destinations.

For some time now, Nigerian gangs have targeted the waters of West Africa, making the Gulf of Guinea the newest hot spot for piracy. The Gulf of Guinea is home to one of Africa’s busiest ports with a lot of oil and fuel passing through each year. Pirates have targeted ships carrying oil and fuel that can be easily sold on the local black market. Pirates have also attacked countries that border the harbour, including the Ivory Coast. According to a report from eNews Channel Africa, dated May 30, 2013, a total of 58 attacks were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea last in 2012, including 10 hijackings. The latest attack occurred in February 2013 where pirates hijacked a French-owned fuel tanker off Ivory Coast.

It is obvious that insecurity is a serious issue in the Gulf of Guinea. This has seriously affected the business operations of multinationals especially oil companies with heavy investments in the region. What really is the cause of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, and what are the possible solutions to this melee? Of course an international meeting on security in the Gulf of Guinea is necessary, but will this solve the concerns of security in this area, especially if inhabitants of this area feel disgruntled about economic gains trickling out of their region?

First of all the private sector in the Gulf of Guinea is still seriously underdeveloped. The indigenes of this area remain improvised and unemployed, while major multinational companies benefit from natural resources, with encouragement from unscrupulous African leaders. Secondly, the taxes paid to African governments by multinationals are instead starched in foreign bank accounts by corrupt leaders, while their citizens languish in poverty. Although former World Bank executive, Nigeria’s minister for finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the Lancaster House conference on Saturday June 15 2013, purported that multinationals pay far less taxes than they are supposed to, this money can be put into good developmental use by African governments.

Stepping up security in the Gulf of Guinea is thus very important, but this cannot solve the problem of insecurity in the area. Insecurity concerns in the Gulf of Guinea thus warrant a holistic approach, with more attention on creating jobs and improving the livelihood of the indigenes. Many may argue that most of the pirates carrying out atrocities in this area are from parts of the African continent such as Somalia, but the truth is that these pirates even recruit disgruntled locals who do not benefit from the proceeds of the natural resources exploited from their area.

There is therefore a need for the various governments in the Gulf of Guinea to revamp their private sector and create jobs for their citizens, a majority of whom are of youthful age. It is equally vital for taxes paid by oil multinationals especially to be judiciously utilised in the development of the area. Instead of allowing this money to be starched in foreign bank accounts, African leaders should be coerced especially by these multinationals and the World Bank to ensure that the money paid in as taxes is judiciously used for development and employment. It may also be important for states in the Gulf of Guinea to develop a local policy content which would allow for locals to benefit from activities of multinationals. Ghana already has a commendable local policy content. Other countries in the Gulf of Guinea like Gabon and Cameroon need to follow same. With such a combination of possible suggestions, the Gulf of Guinea would definitely be a safe haven not only for multinationals, but also for the indigenes of this area who also suffer from these attacks.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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Solar Cookers Revolutionize West Africa, By Audu Liberty Oseni, African Executive, 30 January- 06 February 2013


Events in communities of West Africa have shown that solar energy, other than providing alternative for electric power, is serving as basis for solar cookers, stoves and ovens. Ghana drew attention during the solar cooking year in 2002 when a project headed by Dr. Mercy Bannerman emerged as one of the top winners at the World Bank’s Development Marketplace, an occasion that takes place yearly to display excellent innovations in less developed nations. Dr. Bannerman, won the award for her project entitled “Simple Solar for Health + Wealth”.The $100,000-award was meant for preparing additional people to multiply the technology in Ghana. The project has now gone away from home use to the formation of small scale ventures for making solar cookers and marketing them. Dr. Bannerman has been given monies for related reasons via Rotary International’s programmes. Her award was a landmark for solar cooking supporters all over, with its appreciation of the prospects of the technology as a vital factor in development.

Frank Otchere, has successfully built and used a solar CooKit in Ghana. Expanding on what he has done, over 60 solar cookers have been constructed by villagers, and are being marketed for about $5 for one. Otchere and Bannerman had arranged to assist in supporting solar cooking in Ghana: Bannerman to focus in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions; whereas Otchere in the Eastern, Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo regions.

Efforts to improve on this invention by governments, individuals and nongovernmental organizations have been recorded enormously. Eleven women from the West Africa Network for Peace Building and the Women in Peace Building Network had a one-month training workshop in Ghana on making of solar stoves. The women were selected from Margibi, Montserrado, Bong, Nimba and Lofa. In a similar development, many participants from several parts of Togo and Ghana were present at a conference organized by Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE), displaying solar cooking and solar water pasteurization. Construction workshops were also available to conference participants. Beneficiaries of a JVE solar project gave evidence of how solar cooking has touched lives in the Vo region. Present at the conference were Togo’s Deputy Director of the Ministry of Environment and the Minister of Youth, and representatives of the media.

In the northern region of Ghana, Grace Akawe supervises 90 solar cookers and the users in Tamale and the immediate societies; she goes there twice every week. Whereas in the upper west region, Jacinta Ziem supervises a entirety of 25 solar cookers and their users in the municipality of Wa and the surrounding areas, where she visits two Saturdays in a month. Both of them are famous in their vicinity and have grown a strong relationship among the users. As they do the supervision, they also teach the users of the solar cooker on the ways to maintain it and keep it fit to use at all times.

In Liberia, for instance, NGO Sustainability’s project is introducing Small Scale Solar and this move intends to sustain community participation in training on the use and making of solar cookers, enhanced cook stoves, solar pumps, WAPIs and solar lanterns. It is expected that upon triumphant achievement of this, the project would be initiated in other areas of Liberia as a scheme that assists in the alleviation of an adjustment to climate change. In a related development, True Faith Missions (Pastor Hal Nichols) has introduced solar oven to communities in Liberia and it is making a mammoth accomplishment and so far nine families have built and are using them, and the people were very glad to learn that they can cook rice using the sun.

In Nigeria, Prof. RoseAchunine had met with students of the Department of Physics and Industrial Physics at Evan Enwerem University in Owerri, a south eastern city. The students have designed their own edition of parabolic solar cookers and solar box cookers. They desire to enhance effectiveness and homogenize their designs to make the solar cookers more proficient and trustworthy for use by local inhabitants, as well as metropolitan inhabitants. They will carry on their endeavor to offer training workshops for the rural inhabitants. In a similar vein, Margaret Koshoni presented a solar cooking seminar in Lagos. The seminar was organized by the Cosmopolitan Women’s Club with over 400 participants from government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, women’s groups, schools, and even a few banks, in attendance. As a result of the usefulness of the seminar, Lagos State Government’s Commissioner for Women Affairs urged Koshoni to organize future workshops for the whole Lagos State Local Government Areas. On the same accomplishment, Renewable Energy Technology Company Ltd had a training program on solar cooking at New Bussa, Niger state. The company further collaborated with Girls Guide/Scout of America for the Girls Guide of Nigeria to replicate the workshop on solar cooking at the Women Centre in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

The Gambia is not left out of the solar cooker initiative. Lamin Sawo of the Health Education and Agricultural Development (AHEAD) discussed exploits in AHEAD’s large-scale solar cooking scheme in The Gambia, disclosing that 900 households now use solar cookers. AHEAD had carried out solar cooking trainings in five villages in Gambia and had workshops where it trained 12-15 women per village in the art of making and using solar cookers. These women that were trained in turn trained others. They have put up a trainers’ cooperative called Tilo Tabiro. In a similar effort, Boka Loho Organization, has built and demonstrated solar cookers at agricultural shows and other events. They manufacture cookers, tutor users, and also work with schools in the encouragement and support of solar energy usage. In supporting this move, the Gambia Ministry of Trade and Industry has trained women’s groups as users and carpenters in the making of box cookers for solar cooker making.

Mali has also bought into the initiative of solar cooker, as The Association of Handicapped Women of Mali (AMAFH) continues to put together solar cooker training for its members in Bamako, with assistance from the Association of Women Engineers (AFIMA) and monetary assistance from Dutch KoZon Foundation. At the moment AMAFH has taught 60 deaf and hard-of-hearing women, fifty women with leprosy and 20 mentally disabled women on means of utilizing CooKit solar cooker at two day training it organized for them.

The Togolese are also in the race to catch up with solar cooker revolution as Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE) has taken its hot message to over 150 youths in the country. Over 100 participants from several cities in Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin assembled for a workshop in Notse. On this three-day workshop, participants learnt fundamental solar cooking concepts and skills; they crafted their own solar CooKits. JVE had organized Operation Amis du Soleil, a five-day gathering in the Casablanca quarter of Lome and this brought jointly numerous numbers of persons, the majority of which were youth, to be trained on solar cooker use and to make solar cookers for JVE’s solar water pasteurization project in Vo prefecture.

The prospects of solar cooker in West African urban poor communities are enormous; about 87% households use either kerosene or firewood in making their food in the region. In Nigeria, for instance, kerosene is no longer affordable generality of the populace as the price has skyrocketed in the face of subsidy removal and sharp practices by marketers who convert the commodity to aviation fuel. And those who use electric stoves are likely to opt for the solar cooker option too as power supply is epileptic and increasing in cost. Desperate search for firewood has been caused serious deforestation, exposing the communities to the vagaries of climate change. Those trainees who eventually venture into the business of making solar cooker are likely to be in for a boom, as the liquefied natural gas alternative to kerosene, electric and wood stoves is yet to kindle.

Of course, immediate areas of intervention should include support for businesses and not-for-profits engaged in training, production and support for users of solar cookers in West Africa. Government agencies, especially MDAs responsible for health, environment, energy, technology, women and the like, must be made to understand the organic place of these devices through behavior change workshops and exercises. In its discussion on sustainable energy for all, the regional body ECOWAS must take local technological inventions in the region serious and must commit more money for research and development where initiatives like this can be improved upon and standardized. This will be most imperative for ECOWAS as it pushes for West African regional integration as technology is a driving force for development.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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