Interview: Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo

How will the ECOWAS-EU economic partnership agreement (EPA) benefit West African states?

KADRE DESIRE OUÉDRAOGO: According to the Cotonou Agreement, EPAs are intended to foster the smooth and gradual integration of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) into the global economy, with regard for their political choices and development priorities. This will promote their sustainable development and contribute to poverty eradication as well as enabling ACP states to trade internationally.

Rather than a traditional trade regime, the Cotonou Agreement and EPAs were devised as instruments of development, taking into account the national and regional development strategies of ACP countries. A number of measures were taken, including preferential treatment for West African goods, which are 100% duty free/quota free to EU markets, and liberalised EU inputs to reduce prices to consumers and lower costs of production. Also, gradual market opening will encourage competition and efficiency. Additionally, the cancellation of export subsidies will remove unfair advantages for EU products and enable our goods to compete.

Where can foreign direct investment (FDI) best be used for infrastructure project financing?

OUÉDRAOGO: Financing the ECOWAS priority regional road network is estimated to cost about $33bn. This financing requirement is beyond the capacity of member states, so FDI is welcome. Additionally, we are pleased with the declaration that concluded the fourth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which seeks to strengthen cooperation for joint measures that promote regional integration and growth. In particular, we commend the government of China for doubling the envelope of support to Africa, from $10bn to $20bn, for integration and development efforts. The EU is also to be commended, doubling support to ECOWAS from $0.6bn to about $1.2bn. FDI will help us carry out feasibility studies and design regional roads and interconnections. There is already a team of 13 Chinese experts surveying the Lagos-Dakar Road to enable the Chinese government to determine the exact level of support that is needed to complete untarred portions of the road and upgrade it to a six-lane highway.

FDI will also help fill financing gaps in regional road projects, such as the Dakar-N’djamena Highway and the interconnections that will facilitate the free movement of goods and persons. Also, the ECOWAS Commission is in the process of finalising plans to set up an investment guarantee agency in partnership with African Trade Insurance. Hopefully, these efforts will provide the needed incentives for the private sector to invest in the regional road network projects.

How can the energy gap in West Africa be filled?

OUÉDRAOGO: Over the past few years, the ECOWAS region has experienced an energy crisis, with a shortfall of electricity supply to meet the growing demand. Solutions to this crisis include the development of high-capacity power plants, implementation of electricity network interconnection projects and the development of renewable energy. In the short and medium terms, the main steps will be the implementation of the ECOWAS regional priority projects, comprising the construction of three regional thermal power plants of about 450 MW each, and the construction of specific electricity transmission lines. In conjunction with our commitment to sustainable development, two of these three thermal power plants, located in Benin and Ghana, are gas-fired power plants and will be directly supplied through the West African Gas Pipeline. Among the priority electricity network projects, it is worth mentioning the interconnection between Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Hopefully, this project will increase the regional network with a 330-KV transmission line about 1340-km long, to be commissioned in 2018. Also, West Africa is endowed with vast hydroelectric potential. As we develop renewable energy in the region, small-scale hydroelectricity plants can provide for local communities and feed into national networks.