China moves to establish firm presence in West Africa

Both parties earlier signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU for funding of equipment to the ECOWAS Standby Force, ESF.


China has begun moves to firmly establish its presence in West Africa and has sealed a strategic consultative mechanism agreement with the regional Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to achieve this.

The agreement, sealed on Monday, is expected to provide a holistic framework for defining and implementing the terms of cooperation for greater effectiveness between China and ECOWAS.

The agreement was signed during a working visit to the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja by a three-member Chinese delegation led by Director General, African Affairs Department in the Ministry of  Foreign Affairs, Lu Shaye.

This is coming barely a month after both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, under which China would provide $5 million (N813 million) in “deployable headquarters equipment” to the ECOWAS Standby Force, ESF.

At the meeting during the visit, China offered about S$200,000 (N26 million) in capacity building support to ECOWAS, one of the five priorities identified by the delegation, to enable the organisation realize the objective of its on-going institutional reform and repositioning for greater efficiency.

Mr. Lu called for increased cooperation with ECOWAS to strengthen the ESF through personnel training, joint exercises and material assistance.

Other areas of possible assistance identified by the delegation included enhanced political cooperation, peace and security, the fight against terrorism and transnational crime, economy and expansion of trade, which has reached about $33 billion between ECOWAS and China.

The Vice President, Toga McIntosh, who led the ECOWAS Commission’s delegation, lauded the growing relationship with China covering cooperation with Member States and the Community.

Noting the region’s efforts to promote peace, stability and prosperity through various initiatives, the most recent being the Vision 2020 document, Mr. McIntosh praised China’s support in securing international support for the region’s political initiatives, including the deployment of peacekeeping troops.

He recalled the recent visit of a Chinese technical team to West Africa in February to evaluate portions of the regional coastal road corridor that require the country’s support for rehabilitation.

The vice president also expressed the hope that the Lagos-Dakar road corridor project being pursued by ECOWAS would be accommodated within the support for priority infrastructure projects in Africa promised by the Chinese premier during his recent visit to the continent.

The Chinese delegation was also briefed on the region’s security challenges and responses as well as its infrastructure projects and priorities, including the road corridor project and the construction of a new headquarters building for ECOWAS.

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