Let’s give youth jobs – Mahama urges ECOWAS leaders.
The Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President John Dramani Mahama, has cautioned that West African countries face a dreary future if their governments fail to tackle the problem of job creation for the youth.
“Special attention should be given to this problem. It is a danger if we are unable to handle it properly,” he said at the opening of the 47th ordinary session of ECOWAS in Accra yesterday.
He also urged the ECOWAS Commission to take up the challenge because the problem affected every country in the sub-region.
Concerning Africa, the ECOWAS Chairman said the continent had the fastest growing youth population, for which reason he suggested that attention be focused on creating decent jobs for them.
The session took place just a week before the 40th anniversary of the formation of ECOWAS.
ECOWAS has rescheduled activities to mark the occasion and as expected, the significant period did not escape the attention of President Mahama, who mentioned some of the successes chalked up by the sub-regional group over the period.
He mentioned, for instance, that when the ECOWAS Treaty was signed on May 28, 1975 very few member states were under democratic rule, but today all of them were ruled by democratically elected governments.
Before the formation of ECOWAS, he said, nationals had to acquire entry visas to member countries, but that was not the case now because of the protocols on the free movement of persons, goods and services.
He expressed the hope that when the community citizens’ identity cards came on stream, citizens would enjoy unimpeded movement.
Mr Mahama further stated that the ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme had made trade in the region, especially in goods produced in the region, much easier than before.
Besides, he indicated that the ECOWAS common external tariffs, which came into force on January 1, this year and was expected to become operational by the middle of the year, would move the region closer to a free trade area.
He touched on the progress made in the fight against the Ebola viral disease and welcomed efforts to bring the situation under control following the declaration of Liberia as Ebola-free. But he cautioned that once Sierra Leone and Guinea were not completely free from the disease, there could not be any celebration, adding, “We are looking forward to a zero case.”
While commending all who had contributed to the success story so far, he sought continuous support in the post-Ebola era to rebuild the economic and social infrastructure of the three most-affected countries.
Boko Haram might have been weakened by recent onslaughts from the armies of Nigeria, Chad and Niger, but the ECOWAS Chairman said the terrorist group could not be underrated.
That was especially so as the Chibok girls were yet to be freed, while the Islamist group also continued to launch periodic counter-attacks.
He thanked the Economic Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS) for its contribution to the fight, and said he looked forward to the proposed joint summit between ECOWAS and ECCAS to formalise strategies to crush the group.
Mr Mahama was proud of the successful elections held in Togo and Nigeria and said the events sent strong signals to the world that protocols on enhancing democracy in West Africa were on course.
He was of the firm belief that in October when Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivore and Guinea held their elections, West Africa would have told the world that the sub-region had reached an advanced stage in entrenching its democratic rule.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, said the sub-regional group had every reason to celebrate the 40th anniversary because of the magnificent strides it had made.
He said efforts to fully integrate the region were on course.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, pledged the support of the UN to ensure peace in the sub-region.
He said although some progress had been made in controlling the spread of Ebola, there was the need for vigilance until it was completely eliminated.