The President of Niger, Issoufou Mahamadou, has listed issues he will focus on as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On the priority list are the promotion of regional peace and security, consolidation of democratic institutions and economic integration of the ECOWAS states, particularly infrastructure programmes and the common currency.
President Mahamadou who was appointed the Chair at the last Summit of Heads of State and Government on June 29, made this commitment on Thursday during a working visit to the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.
He said actions would be continued to strengthen democracy and political governance in the subregion, in accordance with the relevant protocol.
Mr Mahamadou said the organisation will support member states in organising transparent and credible elections.
Stating that ECOWAS is the leader of African regional economic communities in the field of democracy and political governance, he said everything must be done to maintain the position.
He, however, pointed out that the region is facing security challenges related to maritime piracy, terrorism and organised crime.
He said this will be addressed at the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government, which will be held on 14 September 2019 in Burkina Faso.
The summit is focusing on the security situation in the Sahel.
According to Mr Mahamadou, the construction of socio-economic infrastructure remains an urgent need for West Africa, as it is a factor in accelerating economic growth.
“At the transport level, the implementation of the various regional road corridors must continue and other corridors linking the economic capitals of our region must also, be developed in order to achieve densification and a cross-border communication network covering the entire Region,” he said.
He said emphasis must be laid on rail transport and called for the rehabilitation of existing railways and the creation of new rail corridors.
He said it is necessary to support the increase in the flow of freight transport, without forgetting the positive impact on the degradation of the roads.
He said the project of a railway loop linking Cotonou to Abidjan via Niamey and Ouagadougou and capitalising on existing networks seems to be very relevant.
“In view of the high cost of investment in the railway sector, the Commission should further explore appropriate ways of financing this type of infrastructure, with the participation of the private sector.”
Giving that the majority of the population in the region lives in the rural area, President Mahamadou said agriculture must remain a priority to fight the risks of a cereal deficit in a context of climate change with multiple negative effects and to meet the growing needs of the region.
The president of the commission, Jean-Claude Brou, who was also at the event, listed the significant challenges facing the region.
These are strengthening strategies to combat insecurity and extremism; the increase of socio-economic infrastructures in order to increase the competitiveness of the region; and improving performance in the free movement of goods and people.
Others are the operational implementation of the free trade area launched in Niamey on July 9; the creation of the West African Monetary Union; the implementation of programmes for industrialization and development of resilient agriculture; and the urgent strengthening of our capacities in training and health.
“ To respond to these challenges in a sustainable way, reflections and actions have already been initiated at the level of the various Departments; others are planned. We will present you with an overview in the rest of our working session,” he said.