By Sotunde Busayo
To harness the potential opportunities in the West Africa region, which is said to have untapped natural and human resources to serve about 300 million consumers, member nations of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) have been urged to take measures to fast track the integration process, reduce youth unemployment and sustain reforms geared towards improving business environment. This appeal was made at the just concluded 2nd ECOWAS Investment Forum in Lagos, Nigeria under the theme –‘showcasing investment and financial opportunities in ECOWAS’
Organised by the ECOWAS commission and the Association of Investment promotion Agencies of West African States (IPAWAS) and the West Africa Bankers Association (WASA), the forum seek to harmonise the platform for investment promotion in the region, access the synergy of cooperation, promote investment across the region and provide a platform for sharing investment among investment promotion agencies in member states.
It also attempts to showcase the ECOWAS investment climate to the world and provide vertical and horizontal window for integration of private sector activities. Apart from this, it provides network and partnership of ECOWAS, private sector and financial institution in assisting ECOWAS member state and investment promotion agencies to access technical support from relevant agencies across the world.
The forum, which had in attendance 15 member nations with individuals from private and multilateral financial sector, highlighted the economic state and potential ways to explore them to achieve success.
Also at the forum, it was lamented that while ECOWAS is to be commended for creating the direction and push for integration in the sub-region; its action seem to have little effect because it has no effective plan to follow up on the states to observe protocols.
Member states are enjoined to domesticate all ECOWAS policies and protocols to fast track the setting up of a regional capital market, establishment of specialised banks that will be entirely private sector driven, implement regional credit risk data as well as regional cross border payment system.
On the issue of the increasing rate of unemployment, member states are encouraged to strive towards achieving brain gain by setting up enterprise fund that would provide unconventional loans and grants to develop entrepreneurs in the region. It should be recalled that the 1st ECOWAS Investment Forum was held in Brussels, Belgium, in 2010,