By Lizzy Okoji and Ifeanyi Nwoko
Abuja, April 23, 2020
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is looking inwards to find possible solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic rather than sit and wait on the Western Countries.
Fielding questions from newsmen during an online Zoom meeting, ECOWAS President, Jean-Claude Brou said that West African countries already had functional laboratories that were already carrying out researches on the virus.
Brou who had just risen from a teleconference with ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, said that finding a solution also formed part of the discussion by the leaders.
“This specific issue was discussed by the Heads of States and what they decided is that there should be stronger and closer co-operation between the local research institutes in our Member Countries in terms of medical work and even see if at the national levels for medicines and vaccine.
“This is something we are going to do with health agencies, you know we have reference laboratories in various countries in ECOWAS so we are going to work together with them to push because we know that some of them are already doing the work and not wait for Western countries for a solution,” he said.
He used the opportunity to disclose that the sub-regional body was now set to coordinate its Covid-19 response better, especially with the experiences from Ebola.
Brou stressed that what was needed at the moment was to share experience, best practices, what has worked, what has not worked, so that the sub-region can do better.
“Remember, we had the experience of ebola in 2014, it was really severe, we had almost 11,000 deaths in 3 countries.
“So, how we can really make sure to use that experience in many countries in dealing with this pandemic and how we can best use it to alleviate the pressure on our citizens,” he said.
The President hinted that the Heads of state harped on the need to work closely with the African Union to call public and private debt restructuring.
He said it was important because it would help give more resources and all member countries would be able to help finance its activities.
“Remember, the crisis we are going through it affecting our economies and slowing it down, unemployment is increasing, there are so many companies that have slowed down and some closed down.
“Remittances from our brothers abroad is low because jobs also have been closed so these impacts will affect our economies.
“The price of oil has dropped drastically so is the prices of cocoa, and other produce. So foreign exchange that we need to cement our economy is becoming more and more difficult, so we need to be coordinated.
He added that the central banks of member countries were also called upon to play their roles in implementing policies that can support the banking sector and other financial institutions which will in turn support the private sector to stay afloat.
Brou noted that a larger part of the economies in West Africa were the informal sector which could only be supported through microfinancing.
“So, they are asking the Central Banks to look for ways to support the microfinance because they are the ones supporting the informal sector.