By Melvin Tejan Mansaray
The health, economy, insecurity, regional integration, etc, were among the pressing issues addressed in the final communique of the Fifty-Ninth Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held on 19 June 2021 in Accra, Ghana.
The summit featured thirteen West African Presidents, one Foreign Affairs Minister, President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, Loise Mushikiwabo Secretary-General of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Akinwumi Adesina President African Development Bank, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and Goodluck Jonathan former Nigerian President and ECOWAS Mediator for Mali among other dignitaries.
On the medical front with specific attention on the COVID-19 situation in the sub region, the Authority noted that the situation is stabilizing due to Member States effort and the West African Health Organization (WAHO).
The Authority however underlined that, “It took note of the vaccination in all Member Countries with vaccines provided by COVAX initiative and salute the recent decision of the G7 to provide additional vaccine to developing countries, “ adding that, “The Authority encourages the West Africa Health Organization to intensify its efforts regarding the mobilization of partnership for the production of Anti COVID Vaccines in the region and note the need to introduce biometric passport in the Region.”
The ECOWAS Heads of States and Government however charged the President of The Commission to work with the Member States and WAHO on the modalities to accelerate the re-opening of land borders safely during the pandemic in line with the agreed ECOWAS Harmonized Guidelines for Free Movement of People and Goods during pandemics.
The ten pages and forty-six points Authority communiqué also noted that, on economic performance and implementation of regional integration programmes, the ECOWAS Presidents highlighted that a negative growth of 0.8% in 2020 linked to the negative effects of COVID-19, welcoming the recovery announced in 2021 with a projected GDP increase of 3.5% in 2021, urging the Member States to accelerate the implementation of economic stimulus programs and projects to support the ongoing recovery.
“Authority notes the need to implement sizeable financing plans for the economies of the Region to support recovery. In this regard, it welcomes the various initiatives underway, particularly the Paris Summit for the Financing of African Economies, as well as the G20 initiatives relating to the restructuring of the debts of developing countries. It calls for the speedy implementation of these initiatives. The Authority commends the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) for launching a facility to support African countries, including member countries of the ECOWAS region, to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also for its support to the G5 Sahel countries aiming at strengthening national health systems. It also commends the Bank for its support of $22 million to the West Africa Health Organization (WAH0). The Authority takes note of the proposal of the AfDB to develop an African Financial Stability Mechanism to protect the continent against external and internal shocks, as well as a Security-Indexed Investment Bonds to leverage resources on the global capital markets to reinforce security in the ECOWAS region. Therefore, it calls on the AfDB to work with the ECOWAS Commission to develop the Investment Bonds. Furthermore, the Authority calls on the AfDB to support quality health care infrastructure and develop pharmaceutical industries in ECOWAS countries, including the manufacture of vaccines,” the ECOWAS Leaders said.
The Authority of Heads of State and Government in addition to the economic interventions of the Community noted that the creation of a monetary union commending the Ministerial Committee on the Single Currency Programme for its diligence in implementing the decisions taken at its 58th Ordinary Session held by video conference on 23rd January 2021.
“It decides; a. to adopt the Convergence and Macroeconomic Stability Pact between the ECOWAS Member States, whose convergence phase covers the period from 2022 to 2026 and the stability phase from 1st January 2027; and b. Takes note of the roadmap for the launch of ECO by 2027 and charges the Ministerial Committee to continue to work to resolve all outstanding issues,” the Authority communique said.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), “The Authority took note of the progress in the ratification of the Agreement and urged remaining Member States to accelerate the ratification process of the AFCFTA. Furthermore, it directs the ECOWAS Commission to continue to coordinate common positions for the negotiations to ensure it builds on the acquis of ECOWAS.”
On the security situation in the region, the Authority said that it remains concerned with the security situation in the Region, reaffirming its determination to relentlessly combat the scourge of terrorism, and strongly condemns the recurrence of terrorist attacks in frontline countries, namely Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria registering solidarity with the affected Member States and populations. The summit announced that “The Authority reiterates its urgent appeals to the Member States to expedite payment of their voluntary contributions to the Fund dedicated for the implementation of the 2020 – 2024 Action Plan for the eradication of terrorism in the Region. It directs the ECOWAS Commission to strengthen resource mobilization efforts, including taking advantage of the appointments by the Authority of H. E. Mahamadou Issoufou, former President of the Republic of Niger and H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana as champions of the resource mobilization for the Plan of Action. The Authority expresses concern over the destabilising effect of the operations of mercenary groups from Libya and calls for a concerted international action aiming at urgently resolving this issue, involving the disarmament of the mercenary groups. The Authority expresses the need to enhance the optimization of synergies among the various security, defence, and intelligence agencies across the ECOWAS region to facilitate swift and appropriate responses to existing and emerging threats. To this effect, the Authority endorses the establishment of a Permanent Forum of West African National Security Advisers and directs the President of the Commission to ensure effective functioning and proper coordination and complementarity with the existing ECOWAS defence and security committees.”
The Authority reiterated its call on the Member States to fully implement the measures adopted at national, regional, and continental levels to ensure maritime security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea. It directs the President of the Commission to take appropriate measures, in consultation with the Member States, to fully operationalize the ECOWAS Maritime Security Architecture.
The Authority however agreed that in bolstering regional integration, The Heads of State and Government decide to hold the next Ordinary Session in Abuja, the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Saturday 18 December 2021 expressing its sincere appreciation to H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, for his leadership in steering the affairs of the Community. It also announced that, “The Heads of State and Government appointed H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana as Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government for another one (1) year term.” The Authority took note of the report on a Mechanism to ensure predictability, transparency, and fairness in the rotation process within the ECOWAS Member States for the occupation of the position of Chairperson of the Assembly of the African Union when the turn of ECOWAS arises. The Authority endorses the criteria set up in the Report and the subsequent rotation proposed within the ECOWAS Member States for the chairmanship position of the African Union. The Authority, however, “congratulates the Republics of Guinea and Sierra Leone for the reopening of their land borders,” further commending the spirit of solidarity and dialogue that led, at the Summit, to the signing of the Military and Technical Cooperation Agreement between the Republics of Senegal and Guinea paving the way for the imminent reopening of their borders. It encourages the Republics of Guinea and Guinea Bissau to work to achieve the reopening of their borders. ECOWAS will stand by these countries to accompany them in this endeavour.
The Communique of the Authority however deliberated on institutional matters, the humanitarian situation, the ECOWAS Mission to the Gambia, preventive diplomacy, elections and the political situation among other things that are affecting the West Africa Sub-Region.