By Temitope Ponle
The Federal Government has advised West African governments to develop and deploy human capital and improve infrastructure for higher productivity and competitiveness.
Mr Clem Agba, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning said this at the 23rd session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (23rd ICE) for West Africa.
The meeting was organised by the Sub-regional Office West Africa (SRO-WA) of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) based in Niger in collaboration with the Nigerian government.
The 23rd ICE, which was held virtually, had as its theme “Maximising Investments to Achieve Optimum Demographic Dynamics in West Africa in COVID 19 era: The Imperative of Building Back Better”.
Agba said that economic prosperity was dependent on how the productivity the human and natural resources were employed in the sub-region.
The minister stressed the need for governments to put in place a modern and well regulated financial sector that turned savings into productive investment.
“Invest in research, development innovation and technology; invest in hard and soft infrastructure as well as sustained encouragement of entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Furthermore, develop value chains in agriculture and processing of natural resources and identify and focus on specific industries for job creation.
“Achieving these will build a competitive private sector-led economy that will engender economic prosperity for ECOWAS countries and manage our demography efficiently.”
He said it was important for governments to employ strategic planning which was recognised as useful management framework at all levels of government.
“It is a deliberate effort to influence, direct or control principal economic and sociopolitical activities to achieve the desired goals of protecting the citizens and improving their livelihoods.”
Agba noted that the Federal Government had since 2009 started plans toward national development designed to cover all sectors of the economy.
He said that the plans would promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and ECOWAS Vision 2050.
In her remarks, the Executive Secretary of ECA, Dr Vera Songwe said the theme of the meeting was in line with context of the ongoing pandemic globally.
Songwe, who was represented by Mrs Ngone Diop, Director of ECA, West Africa said Africa was, however, relatively affected in terms of cases and fatalities.
Responding to the minister, the executive secretary said the sub-region recognised development gaps and also gaps across the Africa continent.
“Factors such as low human development, volatile security situation, the rising migration and the attendant demographic dynamics challenges.
“Despite these trends, we must believe that the future is ours, and a better future, a prosperous Africa and West Africa is possible.
“I am fully convinced that with a united front, we can seize the COVID 19 pandemic as an opportunity to build forward in a more resilient and sustainable manner.”
She commended the efforts of West African governments in immediate crisis response measures taken to strengthen diagnostic treatment and information capacities.
“These actions were later extended to containment measures in limiting the spread of the disease and embarking on other supportive policies for economic and social resilience.”
She said the ECA was committed to achieving progress in the implementation of the SDGs, adding that Agenda 2063 remained central to ECA’s work.
She further reiterated the ECA’s commitment to support countries in their efforts to achieve national development goals and both agenda 2030 and 2063.
Songwe also emphasised that the goals and agenda remained “our collective blueprint to build forward in a sustainable manner”.
The 23rd session of ICE was hosted by Nigeria.