West African nations seek voice in global economic crisis
A summit of West African countries has called for a regional response to the global financial crisis, saying Africa should not sit on the sidelines as the international community debates the issues.
The 15 member nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met Friday in Abuja to hammer out a regional strategy for dealing with the ongoing economic shockwaves."Africa should be more involved in ongoing international initiatives to address the challenge as well as international meetings on monetary and development issues," an ECOWAS statement said.
An action plan was presented by the presidents of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, and Guinea Bissau, Joao Bernardo Vieira, calling for "massive investments in energy, roads, air transport, maritime transport and railways through private-public partnership."
The ECOWAS countries are seeing a significant slowing of their region's economic growth. Its gross domestic product, up 5.6 percent in 2007, was estimated to grow by 6.1 percent in 2008 before the economic meltdown hit.
Regional growth now is estimated at 5.1 percent this year, and 4.7 percent in 2009.
Concerning the region's proposed economic partnership accord with the European Union, the ECOWAS statement said it urged "the acceleration of the negotiations to ensure the signing of a comprehensive agreement by June 2009."
The summit also elected Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua as head of ECOWAS for one year, succeeding Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore.
ECOWAS is comprised of the west African states of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.