ECOWAS countries pledge to do more business with China

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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President Muhammadu Buhari says countries within the West Africa region will continue to do business with China because of the strong ties that exist between them and the Asian country.

He made the commitment on Monday, in his capacity as the Chairman of ECOWAS, at the opening of the high level dialogue between Chinese and African leaders in China.

President Buhari said the recent tour of the region by Chinese President, Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of closer ties with China.

He said: ECOWAS Member States will continue to pay emphasis on encouraging more foreign direct investment in the sub-region. To this end, Member States are looking at the opportunities that the China International Import-Export initiative will offer our exporters to gain market access for their goods and services in China.

“Such an opportunity will help in diversifying the economy of our sub-region from over reliance on primary agricultural and mineral products and subsequently correct the huge trade imbalance between China and the ECOWAS sub-region on a win-win basis for both parties.

“While it is pertinent to mention that Member States of ECOWAS are at different stages of development, President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to our sub-region has highlighted the need for even closer collaboration to enable more Chinese investment to support the cause of regional integration and development.”

New Policies

According to President Buhari, ECOWAS member states would soon introduce policies that will further diversify their economies and enhance business opportunities with China.

ECOWAS Member States are presently embarking on policies and strategies to stabilise and strengthen internal growth. Our Member States are making efforts at diversifying their economies and developing specific policies targeting the most vulnerable groups, in order to ensure more inclusive growth. In this regard, Member States will continue to encourage Chinese State-owned companies and entrepreneurs to invest in our sub-region.

 We should also realise that while China’s help is vital, the main push to transform our economies must come from our own efforts and commitment. ECOWAS also welcomes more Chinese tourists to visit West Africa. This will enhance people-to-people exchanges, especially now that Member States are getting involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Our sub-region is endowed with enormous tourism potentials. With China’s support, tourism related infrastructure should be developed to empower our citizens, create more employment opportunities among the teeming population and eliminate poverty, he said.

Gratitude

The ECOWAS Chairman expressed the region’s appreciation to China for investing so much in West Africa.

On behalf of the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), I wish to express our appreciation to the Government and people of the People’s Republic of China for the warm hospitality extended to our delegations since our arrival in China. 

I take this opportunity to convey the appreciation of ECOWAS Member States for China’s increasing investment in our sub-region with the aim of building a prosperous and shared future.

“China is today, the largest investor in the sub-region, in both private and public sectors; covering areas such as infrastructure, energy, agriculture, mining, and healthcare.

“China also provides significant assistance in emergency humanitarian aid and response to climate change. 

“Various construction projects are now ongoing in the sub-region, including the construction of railway projects, power infrastructure, airports and numerous roads through Chinese financing,” President Buhari stated.

New ECOWAS Secretariat

President Buhari, who reminded China of its commitment to build a befitting secretariat for ECOWAS, also pledged that West African countries will continue to encourage more foreign investments in the region.

He said: “Excellencies, while expressing our appreciation for the strong engagement of China with the ECOWAS sub-region, I also wish to thank President Xi Jinping for the pledge to build a befitting Secretariat for the Commission.

“ECOWAS Member States will continue to pay emphasis on encouraging more foreign direct investment in the sub-region. To this end, Member States are looking at the opportunities that the China International Import-Export initiative will offer our exporters to gain market access for their goods and services in China.

“Such an opportunity will help in diversifying the economy of our sub-region from over reliance on primary agricultural and mineral products and subsequently correct the huge trade imbalance between China and the ECOWAS sub-region on a win-win basis for both parties.”

The ECOWAS Chairman used the opportunity to introduce the Republics of The Gambia and Burkina Faso as well as São Tomé and Principe to the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC family.

President Buhari concluded his remarks by pledging that ECOWAS Member States were committed to the deepening and strengthening of institutions in the sub-region, through good governance, the fight against corruption, combating terrorism, as well as violent extremism and organised crime.

He also said doing so would bring about sustainable economic growth in West Africa.