The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission and the World Bank have concluded a high-level consultation event on regional integration as a possible catalyst to re-ignite Africa’s economic growth engine.
The meeting which was held in Abuja, Nigeria also assessed whether West Africa is currently reaping the full benefits of integration.
A statement issued by the Bank indicated that the discussion was part of a series of consultations the World Bank Group is organizing across the continent on its new Regional Integration & Cooperation Assistance Strategy.
According to the statement, the World Bank has current commitments of over $10 billion in support of regional integration programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and plans to scale-up support over the next three years.
Welcoming the new World Bank strategy, ECOWAS Commission President, H.E. Marcel De Souza affirmed that it was well aligned to the priorities of the ECOWAS Commission and its member states, especially the focus on priority economic corridors, energy, promoting agricultural value chains, and education and skills development.
He explained: “ECOWAS is a leader on several aspects of regional integration, but our people want to see removal of further barriers. The prize is big – when we allow greater intra-Africa trade in agriculture we can avoid a massive spike in our food import bill while also giving better incomes for our farmers and allowing the food processing industry to create new jobs.
“The focus on priority economic corridors, energy and promoting agricultural value chains all resonate with what we want to do,” De Souza added.
In his remarks, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria and Coordinating Director for West Africa Regional Integration Programme, Rachid Benmessaoud said: “Our new strategy will soon be discussed by our Board and it is aimed to support the second and third-generation integration efforts.
“For example, we have committed over $5 billion in financing regional energy infrastructure and now is the right time to focus on building the legal, regulatory and risk financing arrangements so that the West Africa Power Pool can gain the full confidence of the selling and buying countries.
“This could be instrumental in helping unlock the huge power generation capacity in the region and rapidly improve access to energy”, Benmessaoud said.
The two parties agreed to further deepen the dialogue and collaboration on regional integration and align their efforts.