Opening Statement By The President Of The Republic Of Ghana, And Chair Of The ECOWAS Authority, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, At The Virtual Summit 58th Ordinary Session Of The ECOWAS Authority Of Heads Of State And Government, On Saturday, 23rd January 2021.We should have been gathered today in Abuja, capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for the 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government. We have been compelled, however, by the exigencies of the times to converge at this Summit virtually. I extend best wishes to you all for a year full of strength, good health, and happiness, as well as for growth and prosperity for our individual nations and for our community of ECOWAS.
I congratulate warmly all our brothers who have been re-elected for another term in office in the elections that took place in the ECOWAS space throughout 2020, which include my modest self. I wish each of us a fruitful term of office in the execution of the high duties of our respective mandates. Through these elections, we continue to reinforce the democratic credentials of the Region, which bodes well for our future.
Permit me also to offer the heartfelt condolences of the ECOWAS Community to the Governments and peoples of the Republics of Ghana, Mali and Niger, who have lost former Presidents and former Prime Ministers. I want us to observe a minute’s silence in honour of the memory of the late Presidents, their Excellencies Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana, Moussa Traoré and Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, and Mamadou Tandja of Niger, and of the former Prime Ministers, their Excellencies Soumaila Cissé and Modibo Keita of Mali. May their souls rest in perfect peace. Amen!!
Excellencies, 2020 was a particularly difficult year in our history and that of humanity, because of COVID-19. The pandemic has not spared any sector of our social, economic, humanitarian, financial, and security life. It continues to be even more devastating, particularly with the onset of the ‘second wave’, and the outbreak of a new variant of the virus in most parts of the world. Its negative impact has heightened and worsened the exogenous shocks affecting our region. The pandemic has brought in its wake unprecedented levels of difficulties for us all.
However, far from viewing this situation as a disaster before which we are powerless, we must embrace fully the lessons it teaches us, as well as the direction it is pointing us. In particular, we must remember that it has given us a good sense of how important it is for us to strengthen our unity and solidarity. It has provided us with the avenue to be self-reliant, and it is a clarion call for us to remain faithful to the main objective of ECOWAS, which is to promote cooperation and integration for the well-being of our citizens.
We have shown considerable resilience and solidarity throughout the period, evidenced in the decisions taken on 23rd April 2020, at our Extraordinary Summit, which have helped to contain the spread of the virus in the Region. Let me thank sincerely our Champion on the Fight against COVID-19, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency 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.
Our appreciation goes to our foreign friends for their invaluable support, which ensured that the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) were able to broaden their scope of support to Member States as a complement to their efforts. 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.
Excellencies, the pandemic notwithstanding, we 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.
We continue to face critical security challenges with deadly terrorist attacks in Mali, northeastern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger. I reaffirm our strongest condemnation of these attacks in our Region and Community, and deplore the activities of these criminal, terrorist groups. We sympathise and extend our deep condolences to affected countries and the families of the victims.
These developments must reinforce our conviction that we must pursue, even more vigorously, the actions we have begun, with the rapid implementation of the decisions of our Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism, held on 14th September 2019. This concerted effort, which must be a major priority objective of the Community, is the best way for us to address collectively the security challenge, and give ourselves the means to ensure the security of the populations of our Community. Our dignity and our sovereignty are at stake.
I thank all Member States that are making significant efforts to support our initiatives, in this regard, especially those that have begun to pay their financial contribution to the one billion United States dollar (US$1 billion) ECOWAS Regional Security Fund (ERSF), 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 dollars ($350 million), one hundred million 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.
The remaining one hundred million dollars ($100 million), which is to be voluntarily paid by the other five (5) countries and other sources, will complete the establishment of the entire Fund. We need to do this as quickly as possible.
We also need to engage on the growing menace to the maritime security of our region. Acts of piracy and maritime destabilization are on rapid increase in the Gulf of Guinea, illustrated by the data, which indicate a forty percent (40%) rise in pirate activities in the Gulf in 2020 over 2019. This calls for a strong regional response.
On the critical issue of the single currency for the community, 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 criteria 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.
Excellencies, achieving strong economic growth, built on resilient economies, is a challenge that we must accept and realise. We must remain focused on the implementation of our programmes and projects in all areas to ensure the well-being of our peoples.
We can best attain this objective by strengthening our regional integration. Thus, 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 our objective. The AfCFTA, as we all know, is, arguably, the most important initiative launched by the African Union. We all have a duty to ensure its success.
I remain confident that, as is customary, the quality of our discussions and the decisions we take together will be commensurate with the ambitions we have for our region.
I conclude my welcome address by wishing our meeting every success, and, hereby, declare open the 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
I thank you for your kind attention.
Je vous remercie de votre aimable attention.
Muito obrigado pela sua atenção!