Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe has been elected the new Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State of Government.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, President Gnassingbe’s election was announced at the end of the 51st Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government held at the Farmington Hotel, Robertsfield, lower Margibi County, on Sunday, June 4. He took over from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first female to serve as Chair of the ECOWAS Authority for a year.
Accepting the preferment, the Togolese President thanked his colleagues for the confidence reposed in him to lead the organization over the next 12 months. “Your choice of Togo, in my humble person, I hereby accept. I humbly accept not only with honor and pride but also and especially with a sense of responsibility and determination,” President Gnassingbe assured.
He seized the opportunity to express to his colleagues, on behalf of the Government and people of Togo, his gratitude and recognition for the unflinching support always shown them. He reflected on the confidence and trust the ECOWAS Authority assigned to Togo in spearheading the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease in the sub-region a few years ago when he served as supervisor of the ECOWAS initiative in the fight against the pandemic. “Now it’s also expressed in your trust in me as current Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority,” he said.
President Gnassingbe expressed warm congratulations to his predecessor, President Sirleaf, who during her tenure, showed ECOWAS’ will to preserve peace and accelerate the development and integration process in the sub-region.
He emphasized that the sub-regional organization, ECOWAS, is in full evolution and its achievements recognized by the whole world, which is a thing of pride and satisfaction. “We are pleased. We commend ourselves but we are by no means satisfied; rather our success encourages us not to rest on our laurels but to continue to further our efforts for more achievements,” he said.
The Togolese President stressed that the challenges before them are many and varied “and requires that we fully expand ourselves by learning from our potential and forge ahead in our objectives of an ‘ECOWAS of Peoples’.”
He urged member states to “lift all barriers of disturbance to our people, encourage regional mobility within our economic space, enhance trade, demographic potential, industrialization, so many of these challenges we must fight together for the empowerment of our people.”
Opening the 51st Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority and providing her reflections on the progress of the ECOWAS Community during her leadership, President Sirleaf expressed profound gratitude for the confidence bestowed upon her and the opportunity to serve the Community.
“This was in recognition of the progress made by Liberia, my country, which was considered a pariah state just 15 years ago,” she said, adding that “it took the sacrifices and the solidarity of members of the Community to bring us to this day, when Liberia can again lead the sub-regional organization and can receive them, in a peaceful and trending Liberia.”
The outgoing Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority provided an update of her prioritized four-point agenda when she assumed the Chairmanship of the Authority a year ago, which included: Consolidation of Democracy, Strengthening Peace and Security Architecture, Improving Financial Stability and Promoting Institutional Reform with the Review and Restructuring of the Community Institutions, as well as Promoting Regional Integration through Agriculture and Infrastructure Development.
President Sirleaf stressed that the road to regional integration is likely to be long and requires consistency; noting that economies of several of the countries, though progressed in the past years, are now plagued by the sharp decline in commodity prices on the world market.
“If there is a lesson to be learned from this situation which affects all our exports, from oil to iron ore and to cocoa, it is that we must diversify our economies and invest in small transformative industries,” she advised, adding that with a population of more than 300 million people, there is a potential to establish an internal marketplace that will create jobs and sustain the sub-region’s progress.
President Sirleaf informed her colleagues that agriculture and infrastructure will enable the sub-region to achieve transformation in the implementation of Vision 2020. “The success of several of our countries in value addition in agriculture can be expanded and our trade integration enhanced through acceleration of the several ongoing regional projects in roads, energy and railroads,” she emphasized; adding that agricultural programs should consider innovative ways of integrating young people to minimize youth unemployment.
She also advocated a strong case for air services connectivity to provide cost effective movement of citizens, increased trade, and tourism, as called for by the Yamoussoukro Declaration and Decision.
The Summit was attended by 12 Heads of State and Government including the Presidents of Capo Verde, Jorge Carlos Fonseca; Senegal, Macky Sall; Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma; Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara; Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Togo, Faure Gnassingbe; Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta; The Gambia, Adama Barrow; Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré; Guinea-Bissau, José Mário Vaz; Guinea, Alpha Condé; and the host country Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Other personalities in attendance included the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas; the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms. Federica Mogherini and the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, who was an official guest of the ECOWAS Commission. Former Nigerian President, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo was a special guest at the Meeting.