... for development-President Kufuor Accra, March 20, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor, on Saturday, said ECOWAS was ready to use sound socio-political leadership, mutually beneficial partnerships and the development of the private sector to the benefit of ECOWAS and its development partners.
He said: " Our priorities now are to network our countries to open up our substantial markets, develop our human resources and fine tune the financial and legal framework for business. This is to enable us to join the mainstream and achieve our ultimate objective of becoming equal players in the global market place."
President Kufuor, who is Chairman of the 15-member body, was addressing the opening Session of a day's ECOWAS Summit in Accra. It is on the theme: "The Challenges of Integration and Development and NEPAD Implementation in West Africa."
The Heads of State and Governments attending the Summit are President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, President Blaise Campoare of Burkina Faso, President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, President Yahaya Jammeh of the Gambia, President Mamadou Tandja of Niger and President Toumani Mani of Mali.
Togo and Cote D'Ivoire had representatives.
President Kufuor appealed to investors to take a closer look at the West African Sub-Region as a viable and attractive destination.
"All that we need now is the continued encouragement of the world and the support of our partners and the ECOWAS dream will be realized sooner, creating a win-win situation for all," he said.
President Kufuor particularly called for the support of the World Bank, whose President, James Wolfensohn is attending the Summit as a special Guest, to aid the Sub-Region's progress
He explained that because of the numerous conflicts that occurred in the West African sub-region, it had not been able to move as fast as expected in its economic integration efforts.
President Kufuor noted that with the leaders in the sub-region coming together to resolve the conflict in Cote D'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Liberia, they had strengthened their resolve to settle disputes as a group.
He said sub-region was now stable, firm and poised to take off in the direction of true economic development and integration.
Topics to be discussed at the summit are " Implementation of NEPAD in West Africa-An agenda for accelerating growth and fighting poverty";
"Addressing the Sources and Effects of Conflicts in West Africa"; "Building Regional Infrastructure"; "Accelerating Trade Reforms and Regional Integration" and "Key Messages and Way Forward."
The Treaty of Lagos, which established ECOWAS in 1975, was revised in July 1993 to reflect West Africa's regional cooperation experiences over the preceding fifteen years.
This takes into account the exigencies of continental integration as envisaged in the Treaty of the African Economic Community.
The Treaty of the African Economic Community has its principal objectives as the creation of an economic and monetary union. To this end, a regional trade liberalization scheme has been adopted for the creation of a free trade area by the end of 1999 and a common external tariff is being implemented in phases. The three-phase programme for the free movement of Community citizens has been completed.
The Community has been pursuing the physical integration of its Member States through the development and modernization of regional highway and telecommunication networks.
Member States have committed themselves to the coordination and harmonization of national economic and financial policies in order to enhance the effectiveness of national structural adjustment and economic reform programs.
This is also to facilitate the regional approach to economic development and the establishment of a monetary union.
The monetary program adopted by the Community has the medium-term objectives of achieving regional convertibility of the nine national currencies and, in the longer term, the creation of a single monetary zone.
Meanwhile, an ECOWAS travellers' check was launched in October 1998 to facilitate regional travel and commercial transactions. NEPAD is an African Leaders initiative to bridge the gap of the developed and developing world through the promotion of good governance, improving literacy levels and promoting health and education programmes, among others, to significantly reduce poverty.