The World Bank and ECOWAS Commission have concluded a high-level consultation event on Regional Integration, as a possible catalyst to reignite Africa’s economic growth engine. To this end, the World Bank has made a commitment of over $10billion to support regional integration programme in sub-Sahara Africa, with plans to scale-up over the next three years.
The meeting, which took place in Abuja, also assessed whether West Africa is currently reaping the full benefits of integration, under the new Regional Integration and Cooperation Assistance Strategy.
ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel De Souza, affirmed that the move is well-aligned to the priorities of member states especially the focus on priority economic corridors like energy, promoting agricultural value chain, and education and skills development.
“We are a leader on several aspects of regional integration, but our people want to see removal of further barriers. The prize is big – when we allow greater intra-Africa trade in agriculture we can avoid a massive spike in our food import bill,” De Souza said.
He also explained that giving better incomes to farmers, and allowing the food processing industry to create new jobs, and focus on priority economic corridors in the agricultural value chain will resonate in all its activities.
“Our new strategy will soon be discussed by our Board, and it is aimed to support the second and third-generation integration efforts. For example, we have committed over $5billion in financing regional energy infrastructure,” he added.
According to him, now is the right time to focus on building the legal, regulatory, and risk financing arrangements so that the West Africa Power Pool can gain the full confidence of the selling and buying countries.
Earlier, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, and Coordinating Director for West Africa Regional Integration Programme, Rachid Benmessaoud, said this could be instrumental in helping unlock the huge power generation capacity in the region and rapidly improve access to energy.