Ã¢â‚¬Å“Regional Integration for Growth and Poverty Reduction in West Africa: Strategies and Plan of Action,Ã¢â‚¬Â the 204-page document was jointly prepared by ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) with technical assistance from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
It was launched by Sherry Aryeetey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology.
The document encompasses four critical areas, including the management of cross-border challenges and conflicts; promotion of democracy and good governance to strengthen social cohesion; promotion of sub-regional economic integration in order to cut cost and enhance competitiveness to accelerate diversification and growth and the development and interconnection of infrastructure to support the economic integration by enhancing the competitiveness of the sub-region.
Poverty remains the worst plague in the sub-region and it is estimated that more than half (60 percent) of the population of West Africa, which stood at about 235 million in 2003, live on less than $1 per day.
At the current annual rate of reduction in poverty, it would take countries in the sub-region about 25 more years to meet the Millennuim Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of people living below the poverty line.
The implementation of the strategies enunciated in the paper would further assist the region to address existing gaps in education, health, portable water and infrastructure.
In the past 15 years, poverty declined considerably in Ghana, according to the ECOWASÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Poverty Profile.
Based on the upper poverty line, the decline was from 52 percent in 1991/92 to 29 percent in 2005/2006.
The headcount index decreased by half from 37 percent in 1991/92 to 18 percent in 2005/2006.
The regional strategy was drawn in line with the MDGs which are expected to be achieved by 2015 in response to the main global development challenges that reflect the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration adopted by 189 countries in September 2000.
ECOWAS members were committed
to the eradication of poverty and hunger, universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health,Ã‚Â sustainable management of natural resources, fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other contagious diseases and development of global partnership.
By Samuel Boadi