At the end of the three day 1st ECOWAS Business Forum sponsored by ECOBANK captains of industries and big businesses along with Chamber of Commerce officials in West Africa have decided that between November 2007 and December 2008 they will undertake events to “sensitize the stakeholders on the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement)” which is to be negotiated with the European Union.
This was disclosed in a document released after the conference detailing what the business leaders want to do as follow up activities after the three day deliberations.
The Business leaders pledge to “organize seminars/ for a for the private sector and civil society stakeholders” and “implement media programs on EPA including newsletters.”
Earlier in his contribution to the discussions on the “Status of Regional Integration: The Common Market and Investment Climate, Mohamed Cole the 1st Vice President of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce called for the establishment of an ECO Stock Exchange which will be run and owned by West Africans.
Mr Cole also floated the idea of bringing together the best brains in West Africa to a single University where they will all be tutored and their intellectual capacities harnessed to benefit the sub region.
The Sierra Leonean Chamber of Commerce official also spoke about the one network practiced in East Africa calling on his colleagues to explore ways in which this feat could be replicated in West Africa.
On the issue of oil, he complained though we in West Africa produce oil yet the oil has to be refined elsewhere and brought back and sold in West Africa. He called for the building up of factories so that the oil could be refined in West Africa and sold to West Africans at a cheaper rate.
On the issue of tourism he called for mechanisms to be put in place so that a tourist will be able to spend two days in The Gambia then go on to spend another two days in Senegal or Ghana without having to go through the trouble of securing visas for all these destinations.
This issue was buttressed by another speaker who highlighted the problems tourists go through in getting re-entry visas.
With a population of over 250 million people West Africa according to Alhaji Borodo president Nigeria manufacturers association “does not need anyone. We have a big enough market to deal with” he noted.
The Sierra Leone delegation to the conference included Charles A. Campbell – Council Member, Edward Gbappie Ag Managing Director SLEDIC, Maurice Garber.
Others include Consultant/ representative of S.L Business Forum, Rhoda Thoronka Chief executive Officer S.L. Chamber of Commerce and Mohamed B. Cole 1st Vice President Chamber of Commerce