Why Is ECOWAS Bank not Headquartered in Liberia?

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Liberia Missed out on hosting the headquarters of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) and Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI) because of long years of political instability in the country, EBID’s former managing director and general manager Robert C. Tubman has said. Mr. Tubman told our business desk exclusively on Monday, June 16 that the founders of EBID, which is the financial arm of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), wanted the Bank to be headquartered in Liberia. “This is the same about Ecobank which many strong-minded Liberians including myself, played key role in founding,” he said.

Tubman, 75, explained that when the EBID was being transformed from the ECOWAS Fund for Co­operation, Compensation and Development which became operational in the l1979, the political situation in Liberia was bad. The multimillion dollars headquarters of both EBID and Ecobank are currently located in the Togolese capital, Lomé.

The former Liberian Finance Minister added: “In order to enhance the financial resources of the Fund through the opening of its capital to non-regional partners, the Authority of Heads of State and Government at its twenty-second session held on 9 and 10 December 1999 decided to transform ECOWAS Fund into a regional holding company called ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) with two specialized subsidiaries, ECOWAS Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and ECOWAS Regional Investment Bank (ERIB). The EBID Group became operational in 2003.

“Again, we were still at war with ourselves during these years,” said Clr. Tubman who is current Chairman of Board of the Liberia Revenue Authority. Mr. Tubman’s predecessor, the late Romeo Horton, was the first managing director and general manager of the ECOWAS Trust Fund.

Although Mr. Horton is deceased, Tubman, who celebrated his 75th birthday on Sunday, averred that he and Horton tried their utmost best to get EBID headquarter in Liberia, but not that the war was still raging.

In June, 2006, the Authority of Heads of State and Government, decided to reorganize the Bank back into a single structure in order to ensure that the EBID Group's activities are carried out under a unified command structure so as to streamline overhead costs.

Clr. Tubman spoke with our business reporter few minutes after Liberia assumed the Board Chairmanship of EBID; a position he and many Liberians believe, Liberia must use wisely in order to lure the Bank’s financial support to develop the country’s shattered infrastructure. He thanked the government of Liberia, particularly, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the level of progress made thus far in maintaining peace and stability in the country.    

                                The ECOWAS Bank

The ECOWAS Bank is the international financial institution established by the 15 Member States of ECOWAS. It has two windows, one of which is intended to promote the private sector and the other for public sector development.

The Bank’s main objective is to contribute towards the economic development of West Africa through the financing of ECOWAS projects and programs, notable among which are program relating to transport, energy, telecommunications, industry, poverty alleviation, the environment and natural resources.

 The ECOWAS zone is made up of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

                                    Areas of Intervention

The Bank invests primarily in basic transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructure and equipment (roads, permanent structures, railways, harbor and airport infrastructure, energy production, transport and distribution infrastructure, telecommunication systems); rural development and the environment (irrigation, floodwater control, rural water projects, agriculture, livestock raising, fishing, protection of the ecosystem, capacity building); social sector (vocational training, education, health, support for decentralization, social amenities in towns); industry (agribusiness, mining, other industries, transfer of technology , technological innovation); services (financial services, information technology related services, engineering, and hotel industry, amongst others.

The Bank’s loan commitment fees vary between 0.5% and 0.75% per annum. The fee for commitment by signature, according to the EBID’s president Mr. Bashir M. IFO, is between 1.5% and 5% per annum. Mr. IFO exclusively told our reporter that document processing fee of 1% flat is charged and that other fees are negotiated on a case by case basis. Meanwhile, the interest rates charged by EBID depend on the type of project and profitability. The rates vary between 1.5% and 4% per annum for public/government projects, except for private sector projects where the rates vary between 6.5% per annum to 12%. The EBID boss has said that the duration of loans depends on the nature of project and its profitability. He said loan granted by EBID could be: short term (0 to 2 years); medium t e r m (2 t o 7 year s), long term (more than 7 years). The initial authorized capital of EBID, according to the Bank, is 603 units of account representing US$945.3 million.

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