Osinbajo to ECOWAS Bank: Evolve innovative ways of mobilizing resources to end poverty

*Says a strong, vibrant and creative regional bank is a strong pillar in building West Africa of our desires.

Speech by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria at the opening of the 15th Ordinary Meeting of the Board of Governors, Ecowas Bank for Investment in Abuja on August 22, 2017
Protocols
First, permit me on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria, to welcome you all to Abuja for this 15th Ordinary Session of the Board of Governors’ Meeting of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID).
The bank has since its auspicious founding proved to be one of the wisest and most farsighted decisions taken by ECOWAS since its inception; a sub-regional financial institution whose primary mission is to contribute to the integration and economic development of the fifteen Member States of our Community, by investing in and supporting both private and public sectors. This was clearly what the sub-region required then but perhaps more so now.
And the bank must be commended for its catalytic role in many game changing investments in energy, infrastructure, and even banking. In Energy: the Desert Connection to link Nigeria-Benin-Togo, which was co- financed with the ADB and West African Development Bank. In Infrastructure, the bank contributed to the funding of Tinapa, in Cross River State of Nigeria. Tinapa remains one of the most visionary projects designed to make Cross Rivers state an international commercial and tourism hub.
The bank also supported an electricity project in Conakry, Guinea, a road link between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and guaranteed a 10 billion CFA bond issue for the port of Dakar and the creation of an investment bank in Benin. The bank also demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness at the height of the many conflicts in our sub-region to establish a Conflict Resolution Fund.
But I must say that the role of the bank today is even more crucial and we all know why. But just to re-emphasize the point. Recent trends in global economic development have had significant impact on local and regional economies. The economies of our various countries have faced falling government revenues, on account of commodity price slumps; declining economic growth; and the challenge of creating jobs on a scale that can cope with our rising populations – all of these and more have translated into greater pressure on governments to urgently diversify resource-dependent economies. The more than 300 million citizens of our various countries are looking up to us for policies and interventions that will break the hold of poverty and inequality on their lives. Of even greater moment is the fact that the sub-region, like the continent, is a youthful one, 70 percent of our population is under 35 with all the implications for providing education and livelihoods that that will mean. So without question the challenges of today call for greater creativity and foresight in supporting and making investments in member countries.
So, one of the crucial issues today which will decisively impact the future is how the EBID can make a difference in the lives of our young people. Are there opportunities for strategic investments in relevant education, especially in the underserved disciplines such as Science, Education Engineering and Maths? Perhaps also the rising scale of foreign investment inflows into business start-ups by our young people should be taken by our local financing institutions like the EBID as a challenge to be just as relevant and invested in the dreams and ambitions of local talents.
Here in Nigeria we would like to see you become even more active in supporting our investment and infrastructure ambitions.
Our government is working hard to attract greater local and foreign investments, and we have put in place the needed reforms required to create an enabling environment for these investments. With our robust Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), and our ongoing business environment reforms, we are confident that investing in Nigeria is and will continue to be a smart business decision.
And we do not approach this selfishly. There is no doubt that a successful Nigerian economy with our population being– more than half of the size of the ECOWAS community, and now rated the largest economy by GDP in Africa, will positively impact the whole of our subregion. Nigeria’s economic buoyancy is in a real sense the buoyancy of our subregion.
Permit me to underscore the importance of agriculture in the economic resurgence of West Africa. Today without much effort Agriculture is a significant contributor to the GDP of almost all our States. We play to our natural strength if we fund agriculture, focusing on improved inputs cutting edge extension services and agro processing. An important initiative is the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program. The program aims to achieve 6% agricultural growth and increased food production and availability in West but it is a World Bank Program. We in WestAfrica and especially the bank can certainly do more especially with mobilizing resources for a major West African agricultural fund with an emphasis on promoting inclusion and jobs. I think that the emphasis of that fund must be agriculture for inclusion and for jobs. Because clearly the fastest way for providing jobs today especially for many of our teeming population many of whom are still in the rural areas is the provision of agriculture but not subsistence agriculture but smart agriculture, agriculture that aims to provide real jobs that can make a real impact in the lives and livelihoods of our citizens.
We are of course aware of the numerous challenges that the Bank has faced in recent times, arising from the lack of adequate resources. These challenges have limited its capacity to function optimally as a true financial arm of the Community. Clearly a well-resourced EBID could play a pivotal role in financing the achievement of the objectives of Vision 2020, which envisages the transformation of the ECOWAS Space from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of People, in which the people are prosperous, properly governed, and have the capacity to access and harness the enormous resources of the Community.
So, clearly it is in our interest as member states to do more to address the Bank’s funding challenges, as the Bank seeks to innovatively mobilize resources from across the continent and beyond, in line with its corporate objectives.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Marcel Alain de SOUZA, whom I am told has regularly included the President of the Bank in his interactions with external financial partners. It is our hope that these opportunities to engage with international partners will yield results for the Bank, and by extension, for our Community.
So, clearly it is in our interest as member states to do more to address the Bank’s funding challenges, as the Bank seeks to innovatively mobilize resources from across the continent and beyond, in line with its corporate objectives.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Marcel Alain de SOUZA, whom I am told has regularly included the President of the Bank in his interactions with external financial partners. It is our hope that these opportunities to engage with international partners will yield results for the Bank, and by extension, for our Community.
Finally, let me once again welcome you to Abuja, and wish you a most productive and successful deliberations.
It is special privilege to declare open this conference.
Long live regional integration; long live ECOWAS, long live all of the ECOWAS members.
I thank you for your attention.

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