The ECOWAS Commission has called for a new era of partnerships between the region’s public and private sectors to enable each to efficiently deliver vital and complementary services to the citizens, particularly in infrastructure development.
Speaking at the official launch of the publicity campaign for the sixth ECOWAS Trade Fair in Lome, the capital of Togo, on Friday, the President of the Commission, James Victor Gbeho, said such partnerships should focus on infrastructure, financial services, preservation systems, marketing processes, technology and production update as well as information and communication technology.
The theme for this Year’s Fair, to be hosted by Togo from 25 November, is “Strengthening intra-community trade through public private partnership”.
“The importance of this form of collaboration is essential and cannot be overemphasized as government is enabled to focus on other major projects as opposed to being burdened with the task of even running or financing certain sectors that can be efficiently run by the private sector,” the ECOWAS chief told his audience of government officials, private sector operators and diplomats.
In this way, he said the region would also be adapting to a global trend that has proved successful in some Member States where the private sector provides public service or project and assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risks for the project under a contract with the public sector.
The Commission President said the theme of the Fair was chosen in response to the challenges that have stymied intra-community trade through gaps between government, the organised private sector and the other stakeholders in the sector.
He extolled the value of the ECOWAS Trade Fair as an important platform for promoting intra-community trade, cooperation and integration for the purpose of creating an economic union for the benefit of the community’s 300 million citizens whose welfare is driving regional integration project.
Togo’s Minister of Trade and Promotion of the Private Sector, Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu, said that by awarding the hosting right of the Fair to Togo for the second time in eight years, ECOWAS was demonstrating confidence in the country’s ability to host major events.
He bemoaned the region’s low level of intra-community trade in spite of the flagship regional Protocol on the free movement of persons, right of residence and establishment and the demonstrated political will of regional leaders.
The Minister pointed to the irony of Member States preferring to trade with countries, mostly in Europe and Asia, in spite of the huge potentials in the region and while industries in the region are desperately looking for markets for their products.
He said the biennial fair should be used to expose the region’s products and expand their markets with product quality assured by appropriate national institutions, adding that the Fair should be an opportunity to explore new frontiers in intra-regional trade in order to transform the level of commercial interactions within 10 years.
The Minister also challenged the ECOWAS Commission to examine the possibility of introducing a regional prize to motivate local producers and improve the level of intra-community trade, noting that the fair should also be an opportunity for both sectors to propose measures to address the implementation of the regional instrument for promoting trade and unfettered intra-community movement of citizens.
The Director of Togo’s Trade Fair, Mr. Kueku-Banka Johnson, said some 600,000 persons were expected to visit the three-week regional fair being co-hosted with Togo’s ninth national annual fair