President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, expressed the appreciation of ECOWAS Member States for China’s increasing investment in the sub-region with the aim of building a prosperous and shared future.
The President was speaking at the opening of the High-Level Dialogue between Chinese and African leaders and business representatives in Beijing, China.
He noted that China was the largest investor in the sub-region in both private and public sectors, covering areas such as infrastructure energy, agriculture, mining and healthcare.
According to him, China also provides significant assistance in emergency humanitarian aid and response to climate change.
He said: “Various construction projects are now ongoing in the sub-region, including the construction of railway projects, power infrastructure, airports and numerous roads through Chinese financing.
“While it is pertinent to mention that Member States of ECOWAS are at different stages of development, President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to our sub-region has highlighted the need for even closer collaboration.
This he said was necessary “to enable more Chinese investment to support the cause of regional integration and development.
“We should also realise that while China’s help is vital, the main push to transform our economies must come from our own efforts and commitment.’’
He maintained that the ECOWAS region which accounted for some 30 per cent of Africa’s population and GDP had embarked on policies and strategies to stabilise and strengthen internal growth.
Buhari stated that Member States were making efforts at diversifying their economies and developing specific policies, targeting the most vulnerable groups, in order to ensure more inclusive growth.
In this regard, he added that Member States would continue to encourage Chinese State-owned companies and entrepreneurs to invest in the sub-region.
He said ECOWAS would also continue to welcome more Chinese tourists to visit West Africa.
The Nigerian leader stated that this would enhance “people-to-people exchanges, especially now that Member States are getting involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
“Our sub-region is endowed with enormous tourism potential. With China’s support, tourism related infrastructure should be developed to empower our citizens, create more employment opportunities among the teeming population and eliminate poverty.’’
The President also requested for visa facilitation for African businessmen and women, and students seeking to visit China.
He assured that ECOWAS Member States would continue to pay emphasis on encouraging more foreign direct investment in the sub-region.
“To this end, Member States are looking at the opportunities that the China International Import-Export initiative will offer our exporters to gain market access for their goods and services in China.’’
According to Buhari, such an opportunity will help in diversifying the economy of the sub-region from over reliance on primary agricultural and mineral products.
He said that the opportunity would subsequently correct the huge trade imbalance between China and the ECOWAS sub-region on a win-win basis for both parties.
While expressing appreciation for the strong engagement of China with the ECOWAS sub-region, the ECOWAS leader also thanked President Xi Jinping for the pledge to build a befitting Secretariat for the Commission.
He, therefore, reiterated the commitment of ECOWAS to deepening and strengthening institutions in the sub-region, through good governance, the fight against corruption, combating terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime.
“These are necessary actions if the right conditions for sustainable economic growth in West Africa are to be achieved,’’ he said.(NAN)