I welcome Your Excellencies to your second home, Accra, Ghana’s capital, for the 59th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
I acknowledge with gratitude the presence of the representatives of the African Union and the United Nations, and Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and, most especially, that of Louise Mushikiwabo, our Rwandan sister, who is the Secretary-General of La Francophonie, and our Special Guest. I say a hearty akwaaba, our word of welcome, to each of you, and I hope you are enjoying the famed Ghanaian hospitality.
On behalf of the Government and people of Ghana, I thank all ECOWAS Member States and all AU Member States for the support of Ghana’s recent successful candidature for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council for the years 2022-2023. Ghana received the highest number of votes on the day, i.e., 185 out of 190 votes. It would not have been possible without your active support. I assure you, Excellencies, that Ghana will make sure that Africa’s voice is heard loud and clear in the deliberations of the Security Council, both on matters affecting our Region and the Continent, and on global issues, and we will consult broadly to define Africa’s interests.
Africa’s Common Position on UN Reform, based on the Ezulwini Consensus, is one matter Ghana is determined to urge on the global agenda. We will work to solicit the backing of countries around the world for this long, overdue reform. We believe it is time to correct the longstanding injustice that the current structure and composition of the UN Security Council represents for the nations of Africa.
Excellencies, let me congratulate warmly our brothers and colleagues, H.E. Mohamed Bazoum and H.E. Patrice Talon, who have been elected as Presidents of the Republic of Niger and of the Republic of Benin, respectively, since our last Summit. I offer them my and the Community’s best wishes for their success during their terms of office. I commend also the Republics of Cote d’Ivoire and Cape Verde for the conduct and outcomes of their latest legislative elections. Our Region continues to strengthen its democratic credentials through the holding of successful elections.
Excellencies, the Agenda for this meeting has been well defined. At our Extraordinary Summit, in February 2021, you entrusted me with the task of leading the reflection on the institutional reform of our Organisation. The purpose of the reform is to improve the performance and operational efficiency of ECOWAS Institutions, in order to ensure the implementation of integration programmes for the economic and social development of the Region.
The reform focuses on the optimal structure of the Commission and other Institutions, on modalities for the allocation of statutory positions, and on streamlining ECOWAS’ operating costs. These were the subjects of several meetings at the ministerial level, and their conclusions will be presented to us for our adoption or otherwise during our Closed Session.
Furthermore, as part of the consolidation of our solidarity and pursuant to the decision taken at our last Extraordinary Summit, we will consider, for adoption, a rotation mechanism that will enable the various linguistic groups of our Community and each Member State a fair, orderly opportunity to lead and represent the Community in regional, continental and global affairs.
The importance of all these issues is an indication of the richness and depth of our Community. I remain convinced that the quality of our discussions and the decisions we take together will, as is customary, be commensurate with the ambitions we have for our Region.
I hope we can agree quickly on these matters so that we will have the time to delve into and take decisions on the great issues, which face us, of terrorism, violent extremism, democracy, peace and security, health and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rapid economic recovery of our Region from the effects of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, we are still confronted with serious security challenges with deadly terrorist attacks and kidnappings, not only in the frontline countries, namely Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger, but also in the coastal countries of our Region, such as Cote d’Ivoire. Recently, the terrorist attack, which resulted in the death of some one hundred and thirty-two (132) civilians, including children, in Burkina Faso, on 5th June, is the latest such outrage. I went, in the name of the Community, to Ouagadougou, on Wednesday, 9th June, to commiserate with President Roch Marc Christian Kabora, and offer our condolences, sympathies and support to the Government and people of Burkina Faso in their dark hour.
Excellencies, these developments should reinforce our collective commitment to pursue and implement, with renewed vigour, the decisions taken at our Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism on 14th September 2019. This concerted effort, which must be a major issue and a priority objective for the Community, is the best way for us to address this security challenge. It is a matter of dignity and sovereignty, which affects all nations in the Region. None of our countries is insulated from the threats of terrorism.
Whilst thanking the countries that have already contributed to the ECOWAS Regional Security Fund, I appeal to other countries, who are yet to contribute, to do so.
We must also pay urgent attention to the growing threat to maritime security in our Region. Acts of piracy and maritime destabilisation are on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea, thus affecting trade in our Community, and increasing the cost of imported products. We must operationalise the maritime centres we have established in the Region, and agree on the way forward to combat these acts of piracy. We cannot hand over control of the Gulf to pirates.
Excellencies, we will have the opportunity to discuss the political situation in Mali, with a view to assessing the progress made since our last decisions taken at the Emergency Summit held here in, Accra, on 30th May, when we suspended Mali from our Organisation, pending the restoration of democratic rule. We will hear a report from the ECOWAS Mediator on the Malian Crisis, His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who went together to Mali after the investiture of Colonel Goita.
One issue of concern for all of us has to do with the pandemic of COVID-19, which continues to ravage the world and our Region. The strong measures taken at national and regional levels, since the outbreak of the pandemic, have enabled us to contain and mitigate, with the blessing of the Almighty, its impact in our respective countries, the tragic deaths we have recorded, notwithstanding.
We need, as a Community, to contribute to the global discourse on access and availability of vaccines for all the peoples of the world. Through the COVAX initiative, all the countries in the Region have taken delivery of some vaccines, supplemented by direct procurement by some Member States. I thank foreign friends of the Community who have contributed to funding the initiative. We note, however, that the quantities received are woefully insufficient. We must, thus, continue to work on the purchase and production of vaccines in our Region. We have to encourage Members of our Community, Nigeria, Senegal, and my own country, Ghana, which are making the effort to produce their own vaccines. We cannot afford to be naked the next time.
The recent decision of the G7 to provide more vaccines to developing countries is commendable, just as is its decision on the taxation of multi-national companies. It is a first step towards addressing the illicit flow of funds, in which these multi-national companies play a major part, and which lead to the huge exodus of resources from our Continent. There is still more to be done.
Excellencies, beyond these challenges, we must work to achieve strong economic growth, based on the construction of resilient economies. Let us continue to focus on the implementation of programmes and projects, in all areas of national life, to ensure job creation and the well-being of our peoples. This requires that we strengthen our regional integration by pursuing the free movement of goods and people, and the development of our economic infrastructure and our human capital bases. In this regard, the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), on 1st January 2021, offers us a historic opportunity to enhance our levels of intra-regional trade, and inspire the momentum for rapid economic growth. We have to rise to the occasion, and change our destiny.
Work on the Community’s single currency must also continue. According to our programme, the new convergence pact and the new roadmap for its implementation will be submitted for adoption during this Summit.
Excellencies, the world continues to value the work of our Organisation, which is held up as a model of regional engagement on the Continent, and we must continue to do whatever is required to strengthen it, and help realise its objectives.
Excellencies, I conclude my address by, again, welcoming you to Accra, and wishing our meeting success. I, hereby, declare the 59th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government open.
I thank you for your kind attention.
Je vous remercie de votre aimable attention.
Muito obrigado pela sua atenção!