ECOWAS is partnering with the International Finance Corporation and the
European Union to implement a programme for the improvement of the business
environment in the region, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His
Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo has assured.
“This will cover the development of a regional investment policy, finalisation
of a regional investment code, the implementation of a regional investment
policy monitoring platform developed jointly by the African Union (AU) and the
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO,” the president told
a Global Banking and Investment Forum, organized in London on 6th November
2012, by the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI).
West Africa is associated with a difficult business and investment environment
accentuated by poverty, infrastructure deficit, policy deficiency and
political governance issues.
In the speech to the Forum, delivered on his behalf by the ECOWAS Director of
Private Sector, Mr. Alfred Braimah, President Ouedraogo said: “The future
looks much brighter now given the level of political will of the Heads of
State and Government and the full support of the development partner community
to assist the ECOWAS Commission and the Member States to address the business
climate challenges at the National and Regional Level through the development
of the right policy frameworks.”
With a population of some 300 million people and GDP of US$ 316 billion, the
ECOWAS region accounts for 4.5% of the world’s population, but only 0.5% of
the world’s GDP. President Ouedraogo however noted that this is also
changing, with a projected 5% annual growth rate in GDP for the region.
“Despite the enormous challenges, there is great opportunity for growth and
development within the ECOWAS Region,” he said. “Also, potential returns on
investment are extremely attractive and more than commensurate for the level
of business risk.”
“It is worth stating,” he said: “that three out of the 40 African Challengers
(global business competitors) identified by the Boston Consulting Group are in
the ECOWAS region.” These are ECOBANK, the Dangote Group and UBA.
With ongoing programmes under the ECOWAS Common Investment Market Initiative,
the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and Common External Tariff, the
Common ECOWAS Passport and Visa initiative, the President said “there is a
large untapped market but only those who are bold to invest notwithstanding
the difficulties will reap the benefits.”
But while “much improvement can be achieved through the effort of a single
country,” he explained that “there are challenges that are better addressed at
regional level, especially given that most of countries share the same
challenge that their laws and regulations are outdated and require updating to
be at par with the current international best practices, and that a regional
approach may also encourage regional integration.”
To this end, the President said the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and
Government have adopted a number of protocols to promote regional integration
through business and investment promotion. Among them is the Supplementary Act
on Investment Rules and approved a framework developed by the Commission for
the preparation of a Community Investment Code.
He told the forum that work on the draft code has been completed and the draft
Community Investment Policy will be completed in 2013.
In addition, a Competitions Act has been adopted by the Authority and the
Commission is in the process of establishing a Competitions Board and regional
and national councils for the ECOWAS Common Investment Market.
In the area of policy and key programmes, the President said the Authority
have also approved a number of texts which are at various stages of
implementation. These include the ECOWAS Common Agriculture Programme
(ECOWAP) - to address the chronic food security challenges; the West African
Common Industrial and Quality Policies; Various policies on Energy including
renewable energy which sets the platform for the attraction of private sector
investments on IPP and PPP basis; and the Policy on the Environment.
In compliance with the directive of regional leaders, the Commission is also
stepping up efforts to develop infrastructure in the region with emphasis on
Road, Air and Rail Transport, Energy with a focus on renewable energy and
The Commission has also commenced the construction of a number of joint border
posts to provide for a one-stop customs, immigration clearance of people and
goods between Member States. This is to enable the region to fully leverage
the benefits of having a common customs goods clearance platform (ASYCUDA)
developed by ECOWAS and implemented by all Member States.
To address issues of political risk, studies have been concluded on the need
to establish an Investment Guarantee/Reinsurance Agency, while the region is
in the process of finalising a strategic framework document for private sector
development with a focus on the development of Small and Medium Enterprises