By Temitope Ponle
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged Member States to urgently implement policies on private sector participation to enhance job creation to encourage youth development.
This formed part of recommendations at the close of the delocalised meeting of the Joint Committees organised by the ECOWAS Parliament in Conakry, Guinea.
The committees are Communications and Information Technology; Education, Science and Technology; Labour, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture.
The parliamentarians urged the ECOWAS Commission to organise campaigns to sensitise youths on the economic goals of the region and understanding their role to play.
Members of parliament also said it was pertinent for member states to intensify efforts to ensure projects in the region were geared toward sustainable regional integration.
In his presentation, ECOWAS Commissioner, Industry and Private Sector Promotion, Mr Mamadou Traore assured that the commission was committed to strengthening Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through its regional capacity building programmes.
Traore said the commission was ready to address some of the challenges experienced in the region through its “new investment policy” coming up in December.
The commissioner said entrepreneurship and SMEs were the foundation of societies including ECOWAS and would provide inclusive development and decent jobs for the majority.
He added that entrepreneurship and SMEs were opportunities to “turn our bourgeoning population into a dividend instead of a curse”.
He, however, said that major challenges to the growth of entrepreneurship and SMEs in the region were due to insufficient capacity, poor business climate, general lack of access market and relevant finance, among others.
The commission’s representative stressed that the parliamentarians could improve challenges experienced by ensuring the implementation of regional and national programmes.
He added that the parliamentary committee responsible for matters of entrepreneurship and SMEs development should be strengthened to effectively monitor implementation of relevant regional policies and programmes.
“This present meeting is evidence that parliament is determined to be more committed to supporting the implementation of entrepreneurship and SMEs development in ECOWAS.
“I hope that our contributions will help parliament achieve its objectives in this regard fully,” he added.
The lawmakers also visited the Souapiti Hydroelectric Dam Project in Guinea.
The estimated cost of the dam was put at $1.6 billion and has an expected capacity of 450 megawatts and would be used to interconnect the power grids of Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
The dam officials informed the delegation that the project was launched in 2016 and is located on the Kankoure River.
They also visited the Kaleta Hydroelectric Dam with a reported 240 megawatts generating capacity and an estimated cost of 526 million dollars.