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Osinbajo tasks ECOWAS on economic diversification, poverty, others

*As Adesoun emerges Chairman, EBID Board of Govs

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has blamed the failure of Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS’) economies on fallen government revenue on account of global commodity price slump, which he said, has led to declining economic growth.

He has therefore, tasked the sub-regional body on economic diversification to break the hold of poverty and inequality in the region. 

Osinbajo, who spoke at the opening of the 15th Ordinary Annual Meeting of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development(EBID) Board of Governors held in Abuja, said, the sub-region was populated by youth struggling for livelihood; therefore, must evolve policies and interventions that would break the hold of poverty and inequality on their lives.

He said, “The economies of our various countries have failed due to fallen government revenue on account of global commodity price slump, declining economic growth and the challenge of creating jobs at a scale that can cope with our rising population. All of these and more have translated into greater pressure on government to urgently diversify our resource dependent economies.” 

“The more than three million citizens of our various countries are looking up to us for policies and interventions that will break the hold of poverty and inequality on their lives. But, of even greater moment is the fact the sub-region, like the continent, is a youthful one; 70 per cent of our population is under-35  with all the implication of surviving, education, and livelihood,” he said.
He said, the ECOWAS bank, (EBID), has in its official funding, and it seems to be one of the wisest and most apt decision taken by ECOWAS since its inception in sub regional financial institutions with primary mission of completing the integration and economic development of the 15- member states by investing in and supporting both private and public sectors. 

“It is clearly what the sub -region requires then or perhaps more so now’ and the bank must be commended  for its catalytic  role in many game changing investments in energy, infrastructure and even banking,” he added.

The VP said, in energy, the desert connection to link Nigeria, Benin and Togo, which was co-financed by ADB and EBID. In infrastructure, the bank contributed in the funding of Tinapa in Cross River State of Nigeria. Tinapa remains one of the most visionary projects designed to make Cross River State an international commercial and tourism hub. It also supported a major electric project in Conakry in Guinea and the road linking between Côte d’ Voire and Ghana and guaranteed a CFA10billion bond to finance the port of Dhaka and the creation of an investment bank in Benin. 

He said, the bank also demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness at the height of the many conflicts in the sub-region to establish a conflict resolution fund. “I must say that the role of the bank today is even more crucial and we all know why. But just to emphasis a point which trend in global and economic development and have had a significant impact on local and regional economies.”

In a related development, Osinbajo, in statement signed by Senior Special Assistant to the President, Office of the Vice President, Media & Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, made available to The Daily Times Nigeria, said that vice president urged EBID to exploit funding, investment opportunities in agriculture, education, especially in the underserved disciplines such as science, education engineering and mathematics.”

Meanwhile,  Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who emerged the new Chairman of EBID Board of Governors said, the meeting brought drivers of economy in the sub-region together, to discuss important matters that would bring radical economic transformation which according to her, would ensure better life for all citizens in the Community.

“Second, we should prioritise industrialization, especially through labour intensive manufacturing to promote job creation. In addition, conscious emphasis should be placed on agriculture to improve food security and deriving more value from the sea, by boosting the ocean economy.

” Efforts are already underway to radically transform the Nigerian economy in a manner that will shift the age-old emphasis away from oil as the main source of revenue for the country. Diversification and domestic resource mobilization, through improved tax revenue are therefore on-going. Without doubt, the signalling effect coupled with positive externalities that would be generated would have significant impact on our regional economy,” she added. 

Earlier in his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), Mr. Bashir Ifo said that the bank’s net cumulative commitments in member states were recorded at 917.6 million Unit Account or $1.34 billion for 135 projects, as at December, 2016.

Ifo said, this was roughly an 8 fold increase from the date of commencement of the cumulative, commitments stood at AU121 million or $187.9m.

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