By Daniel Gumm
A high-level joint delegation of officials of the ECOWAS Commission and some member states began talks in Abuja with Chinese leaders and public-private sector actors on ways to strengthen economic and trade relations between the People’s Republic of China, the ECOWAS Commission and its member states.
The team includes the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H. E. Ambassador James Gbeho and other senior officials of the commission as well as representatives of Ghana and Sierra Leone. The joint delegation is holding discussions with officials of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), the China-Africa Joint Chamber of Commerce, the Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank and China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund), among others.
The meeting between the joint delegation and the Export-Import Bank of China is the “fast tracking” of the funding requests/loan applications submitted by the governments of Ghana and Sierra Leone, and supported by the ECOWAS Commission to secure funds for the financing of projects that have advanced to the financing stages.
They include the U.S.$320 million funding request submitted by the Government of Ghana for the Trans-West African Highway Network, especially the Eastern Corridor, as well as the U.S.$100 million and US$105 million funding projects submitted by the Government of Sierra Leone, respectively, for the implementation of Phase I of the Makeni-Kamakwei-Fintonia-Guinea Border Road and the construction of a new Terminal Complex, a Presidential Lounge and related infrastructure at Sierra Leone’s Lungi Airport.
Similarly, the meeting with the China Development Bank and China-Africa Development Fund and other Chinese actors will examine projects to be considered by the Chinese Corporations for adoption and implementation in some ECOWAS member states. These include private sector or PPP-based investments, rehabilitation and retrofitting of hydro-power facilities, port rehabilitation, expansion and re-equipping project, coal-to-electricity, fertilizer and integrated oil palm projects.
Others are integrated cocoa and rubber industry projects, development of gold mining potential, as well as tourism and agro-allied projects.
The joint delegation will also hold exploratory discussions with the Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank on the eventual establishment of a “Global Framework Facility,” to provide support to ECOWAS-supported regional infrastructure projects which promote economic integration in the ECOWAS zone.
The exploratory talks is expected to result in the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) requiring the Export-Import Bank of China to set aside separate budgetary envelopes to support public infrastructure projects which promote economic integration in ECOWAS zone for the 2011-2015 programme period.