The President of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry Wilson Attah Krofah has called on participants at the three day stakeholders conference to “create the future that will benefit our children.”
Mr Krofah who was speaking at the opening session of the conference in Banjul the Gambia pointed out that emerging economies like India and China have shown that “the larger the population, the greater the economic potential.”
He however complained that with “300 million people” in the ECOWAS sub region we are not realising such benefits. Krofah said “if we can harness our resources together we can be stronger and more viable than any European country.”
The FEWACCI President pointed out that the vision of the ECOWAS founding fathers “was to create economic space and it is the private sector that has the capacity to do this.”
Therefore he said “it is our common objective to create the economic space to create jobs so that our governments can raise taxes and so generate revenue to develop our sub-region.”
Mr Krofah gave the example of trading between for example Ghana and Gambia; he pointed out that the common currency that is presently used is the United States dollar stating that “if the American do not organise themselves properly and the dollar depreciates we suffer.” He asked “why can’t we develop our own currency the ECO?”
Mr Krofah also drew attention to Air Transport in the region stating that some participants may have had to travel for 24 hours before coming to The Gambia. He pointed out that “before independence we had the West African Airline” but again questioned why we do not have one noting that “the colonialists knew how to take care of their own interest that is why they operated the West African airline.”
He concluded saying “we have an obligation, we live for the present but we must make sure we create the future for the benefit of our children. We must leave a legacy so we can look back and say during our time we made sure we put things in place.”
For his part the Director of Private Sector at the ECOWAS Commission Alfred Mahamadu Braimah pointed out that 95% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of South Korea is generated by the private sector. He also added that 30 years ago China was at the stage where West Africa is now. This he said is to note that ECOWAS will not be in the same place in the next 20 to 30 years. However he said “we can only get there if the private sector plays its rightful role and this can only be possible if only government helps them to.” He lamented that there is only between 8 to 11% of intra ECOWAS trade noting that there is huge potential.
Mr Braimah pointed out the tourist potentials of The Gambia including groundnut production, on to one million cultivable land for rice in Mali and the huge oil potentials in Nigeria to illustrate what he earlier called the huge potentials and stated that “facilitating intra ECOWAS trade is very critical.
Gambian Vice President Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy declared the conference open while noting that with all the potentials highlighted by earlier speakers it was only the “political will” which was making things not happening.
She encouraged participants to deliberate wisely and come forward with workable objectives with stated timelines so that more productive outcomes will be realised from the deliberations.
The 10 man delegation from the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce was led by the President Mohamed Babatunde Cole, executive secretary Daisy Scott Boyle and representatives from NRA, Police, the press and others. By Kelvin Lewis in Banjul