A delegation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will arrive at the ECOWAS Commission today to undertake a study of the ECOWAS Common Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP).
Regional leaders approved ECOWAP in 2005 as a mechanism for the coordinated development of agriculture in the region. It targets three major areas of intervention with the objective of boosting production, improving food availability, enhancing the competitiveness of regional agriculture, integrating markets for agricultural products and improving access of regional farmers to the international market.
The 14-member SADC is in the process of developing a similar policy for countries in its region. The visit of the four-member delegation will therefore enable the delegation to learn from the ECOWAS experience in the implementation of the policy.
Officials of the ECOWAS Department of Agriculture will brief the delegation, which also includes a consultant from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) that recommended ECOWAP to the SADC during the visit. They will then meet with key officials, including the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.
During the four-day tour, they will also visit two big farms in Nigeria, including that of the former Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
They also reiterated their commitment to the development dimension of the EPA, which should translate into effective implementation of programmes that address the regions development and resource mobilization concerns.
To this end, they underscored the need for improvement of the productive sectors in the agricultural, industrial, cottage industry and service sectors; the development of infrastructure (energy, roads, railways); the upgrading of enterprise the building of the capacities of the private sector and facilitation of its access to financial resources; Compensation for losses of tax revenues.
These were the decisions of the two-day extraordinary session of the Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) comprising Ministers of Trade in ECOWAS and Mauritania held in Nouakchott on 20th and 21st February 2008.
At the opening of the meeting, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, recalled the mandate of the Heads of State and Government at their summit held in Ouagadougou on 18th January 2008 for the ministers to prepare an appropriate regional framework for the EPA. They are also expected to put forward proposals for resolving the outstanding issues in order to facilitate the adoption of a single Common External Tariff.
In line with this mandate, the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions are expected to lend support to Ghana and Cote d Ivoire in the finalization of their negotiations on the interim agreements initialed with the European Union and ensure that they are consistent with the commitments taken under the regional integration process.
The ministers decided to speed up the costing of the development programmes required to equip the region for the EPA and agreed to establish coherence between the areas covered by such programmes and the EPA Regional Fund.
They directed the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions to assess the net fiscal and economic impact of the EPA and identity priorities in terms of support to the negotiations, with a view to building the regions offer capacities.
Following the recent negotiations with the European Union, progress was made in the establishment of coherence between some provisions of the interim agreements initialed by Cote D Ivoire and Ghana and the regional concerns Both Commissions will continue to support and monitor these interim agreements on the outstanding issues.
The agreements will cease to exist upon signature of the comprehensive agreement. After underscoring the linkage between the Common External Tariff (CET) and the EPA, the meeting also agreed that a single tariff regime should be established for the region and reaffirmed the urgent need for the activities on the CET to be completed not later than 30th June 2008.
They further agreed that the comprehensive regional agreement be concluded by June 2009, at the latest, in line with the schedule adopted in Ouagadougou in December 2007.