ECOWAS is developing modalities to increase job creation to address illegal migration in the region, officials have said.
This formed part of discussions at the opening session of the ongoing Delocalised Meeting of a Joint Committee holding in Conakry, Guinea.
The committees include Communications and Information Technology, Education, Science and Technology, Labour, Employment, as well as Youth, Sports and Culture.
A number of irregular migrants from Africa to Europe via different migratory routes had been recorded since the peak of migration in 2014, with more deaths in the Mediterranean Sea also recorded.
Risk Analysis for 2018 concluded that the sea, especially along the Mediterranean routes, will remain the most active path for illegal crossing of the EU external borders, but also one of the most dangerous for migrants.
This is according to Relief Web, a leading humanitarian information source on global crises and disasters and a specialised digital service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Also, according to statistics from Missing Migrants Project of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 98 deaths of migrants in Africa have been recorded since the beginning of 2019.
This is compared to 107 deaths recorded in 2018 under the period in review.
The meeting attributed one of the major causes of irregular migration of its citizens to the high rate of unemployment in the region.
The Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Moustapha Cisse Lo, charged the members of committees to ensure that they come up with recommendations aimed at job creation.
Lo said this would be done through promoting the development of small and medium enterprises.
The speaker also said the meeting would renew the parliament’s commitment to develop strategies for economic integration.
He added that the consideration and the adoption of the draft report and recommendations of the committees would be done at the plenary session of the ECOWAS parliament meeting to be held in Nigeria in May.
Mrs Liliane Alapini, a representative of the ECOWAS Commission, said that the issues of unemployment were at the heart of the region’s integration pursuit.
Alapini said the non-implementation of policies on job creation and unemployment was also responsible for the rate of illegal migration in West Africa.
She urged the committees present to strengthen policies on small and medium enterprises in the region.
Mr Tibou Camara, the Guinean Minister of Industry and Small and Medium Enterprises, said that unemployment was “a time bomb” that must be tackled to ensure economic growth and development in the region.
Mr Ansoumane Berete, the Country Representative of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), said that industrialisation was paramount to the eradication of poverty in the ECOWAS region.
Berete assured of UNIDO’s continued support to the skills development of young entrepreneurs through proper training.
Another representative the parliament, Mr Alpha Fischer, said the meeting would also develop modalities to facilitate vocational training of youths in the region.
“This meeting will advocate and promote skills acquisition of youths to enable them stay in their countries rather than venture into illegal migration.
“This meeting will deal with job creation and training of our youth so that they can overcome the temptation of being trapped in the Mediterranean Sea,” he said.
Fischer also said that the meeting would equip the members of parliament to play a major role in job creation and also commended UNIDO for its contribution to development in the region.
The theme for the delocalised meeting is “Job Creation in the ECOWAS region through Entrepreneurship and the Development of SMEs”.