COVID-19: ECOWAS prepares for vaccination, discuss other issues at 58th session

COVID-19: ECOWAS prepares for vaccination, discuss other issues at 58th session

The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States are making preparation to administer COVID-19 vaccines to its member states.

The president of Ghana and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo while speaking at the virtual 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on Saturday, January 23.

The ECOWAS Chair appreciated foreign countries that ensured that the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) were able to support Member States as a complement to their efforts.

According to him, ‘’’The time has now come for us to work earnestly towards the vaccination of our populations. We need to send a strong signal to them, from this Summit, of our determination to protect them.’’

President Akufo-Addo appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari, for the significant efforts made through the provision of COVID-19 medicines, medical equipment, and the deployment of human resources to our respective countries, adding that the pandemic notwithstanding, have preserved and strengthened the gains of regional integration, particularly in the area of consolidating democracy, pursuing the free movement of goods, and developing economic infrastructure.

He also urged member states to pay their financial contribution to the one billion United States dollar (US$1 billion) ECOWAS Regional Security Fund (ERSF).

READ ALSO: ECOWAS Ambassadors advocate peace, security in its regions

The ERSF was created in support of the 2020-2024 Anti-Terrorism Action Plan.

‘’Raising this money has to be a high priority for us, because it enables us to act independently in this crisis. Your Excellencies will recall that the 2019 Summit created the Fund to cover a five (5) year period, 2020-2024.

‘’The UEMOA countries committed to contribute five hundred million United States dollars (US$500 million), whilst the Federal Republic of Nigeria also pledged three hundred and fifty million dollars (US$350 million); leaving a balance of one hundred and fifty million dollars (US$150 million) for the six (6) remaining countries and other sources. 

‘’Out of the five hundred million United States dollars ($500 million) pledged by the UEMOA countries, one hundred million ($100 million) has been disbursed directly to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to assist them in their anti-terrorism activities.

‘’We have yet to be informed of the status of the balance of the pledge. Out of the Nigerian pledge of three hundred and fifty million ($350 million), one hundred million United States dollars ($100 million) was pledged for 2020, out of which eighty million dollars ($80 million) was to be used directly by them in their fight against terrorism on their northern border, and twenty million dollars ($20 million) was to go to the Fund. The Commission is awaiting confirmation transfer instructions for this amount, which will then leave a balance of two hundred and fifty million dollars to be contributed to the Fund by Nigeria.

‘’Ghana, on its part, has decided to pledge fifty million dollars ($50 million) over the five (5) year period, of which ten million dollars ($10 million) is destined for the Fund, and forty million dollars ($40 million) for the domestic empowerment of our border security against potential terrorist incursions.

‘’ Half of the ten million dollars ($10 million), i.e., five million dollars ($5 million), has been paid by Ghana into the ESRF account, of which confirmation transfer instructions for this payment has been received by the Commission.

‘’The remaining one hundred million dollars ($100 million), which is to be paid by the other five (5) countries, will complete the establishment of the entire Fund. We need to do this as quickly as possible,’’ he said.

He condemned the security challenges affecting Mali, northeastern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

Speaking on the critical issue of the single currency for the community, President Akufo-Addo said, ‘’ we have agreed on a revised convergence policy, about which a report will be presented to us at this meeting.

‘’I am of the view that the difficulties involved in meeting the convergence criterion should not stand in the way of the rapid establishment of a payments and settlement system in ECOWAS, which will enable a rapid expansion of trade and investment in the Community. We will receive, at this Summit, a report on progress on this matter.

He added that the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which begun trading on 1st January, presents us with additional opportunities to reach ECOWAS objective of regional integration.

Also, in his remarks, the President of ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou supported the issue of vaccination, saying that, ‘’the issue of vaccination is now a matter of utmost priority for oyr region.’’

‘’The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economies is not negligible. Thus, as anticipated, the ECOWAS Region entered a recession with a worsening of all macroeconomic indicators.

‘’ This situation accounts for your decision to grant Member States a waiver with regard to meeting the convergence criteria in 2020, and postpone the creation of the single currency. However, the economic outlook bodes well for 2021, with renewed growth.

He implored that the Action Plan to combat terrorism approved in December 2019 by the Authority should be implemented to tackle the challenges posed by the terrorist threat in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Northern Nigeria.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) also noted that a number of political developments have illustrated the determination of the governments and people of West Africa to enhance the consolidation of peace and democracy in the region.

 These developments have included the conduct of five high-stake presidential elections in the last quarter of 2020.

‘’ These polls saw the re-election of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré in Burkina Faso, President Alassane Dramane Ouattara in Cote d’Ivoire, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in Ghana, and President Alpha Condé in Guinea, while the first round of the presidential elections took place in Niger.

Chambas also urged that in the post-electoral phase, dialogue is prioritized to resolve political differences and build consensus and ensure inclusiveness in governance.

‘’ I am very encouraged by the positive signs and initiatives already taken in some of the concerned countries.

‘’As several other countries prepare for various elections in the coming months, including presidential elections in Benin, Cabe Verde, The Gambia; and Niger (second round); legislative elections in Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, and a constitutional referendum in The Gambia, the United Nations will continue to collaborate closely with ECOWAS and other partners, to support the efforts of these countries to ensure that these polls contribute in the consolidation of democracy in the sub-region.’’

Among other African leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari participated at the virtual 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.

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Goodness Nwogwugwu

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