The ECOWAS Parliament has called for firm measures to address the numerous barriers to cross-border trade and investment in the sub-region, particularly corruption.
It has also urged the ECOWAS Secretariat to involve more stakeholders in its regional integration process, particularly civil society organisations.
A communique issued at the end of a two-day dialogue in Accra and presented by the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, observed that the future of West Africa was in its ability to manage, at the regional level, its numerous advantages and challenges, especially regional trade and investment.
The establishment of a free trade area, a customs union and a single currency for the region, it said, was important to foster closer ties and eventually integration.
The two-day dialogue session was to discuss the challenges of border crossing and opportunities for trade and finance for ECOWAS countries.
It was organised by the National Institute of Legislative Studies of Nigeria, in collaboration with the African Capacity Building Foundation and the ECOWAS Parliament.
It was attended by members of the ECOWAS Parliament, stakeholders relevant to the two thematic areas from within the ECOWAS subregion, resource persons and Parliamentary staff.
The specific objectives of the dialogue session were to evolve practical solutions to deepen the industrialisation efforts in the region, promote regional trade competitiveness through diversified product regimes rather than the dominance of common primary products, restructure import tariff policies to promote local production, ensure efficient border management, reduce transaction and transportation costs, among many other things.
Six papers were presented by eminent resource persons and discussed by participants.
The communique urged ECOWAS to pursue more vigorously the implementation of the single currency policy.
“ECOWAS is encouraged to establish protocols of export product standards in order to improve access to global markets and significantly earn more revenue to promote infrastructure development through enhancement of exports,” it said.
As the ECOWAS community advanced its policies on regional trade and investment, it said, it should be mindful of security considerations, particularly as community borders came down.
“Efforts should continue to develop indigenous industries and their capacity for competition and intra-community trade. Corruption in various forms continues to remain a barrier at community borders, which should be brought to the attention of the Heads of State for remedial measures,” it said.
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