The President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Mr. Kassi Brou, has described the regional electricity market, under construction, as fundamental to the development of West Africa.
Brou spoke when he visited the Accra-based ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA), where he reiterated that energy production is vital to the viability of the market, adding that the regional organisation is already formulating policies that will attract investments.
He said ECOWAS’ focus was looking forward to the needed funding in the production of electricity, ensuring transmission and distribution lines for cross-border power exchange and access to the local population.
According to him, the body was also interested in having a good legal environment “so that private investors can know exactly, in a very predictable and transparent way, what the rules are and so can invest in the sector”.
The first phase of the Regional Electricity Market was launched in June 2018 in Cotonou, Benin Republic, while the second phase, he said, will introduce a competitive market and help promote efficiency.
Brou said the electricity market will ensure an increase in investment, considering the existence of a free trade area and the free circulation of persons, goods and services in the region.
“We are trying to make energy available at a competitive cost to every country, and at the lowest cost possible for community citizens,” a statement quoted him to have said.
He stated that ECOWAS was preoccupied with achieving the objective that has been set for energy, including increasing the availability of energy to the people, as well as cost-effectiveness and efficiency in energy production and gradually transform the whole mix to renewable energy.
Brou listed other challenges by the organisation as security issues, especially in the Sahel, the Lake Chad region and the Gulf of Guinea, stressing that the decisions of two ECOWAS extra-ordinary summits are being implemented to address the security challenges.
He also identified the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant consequences, including the lockdown last year in the region and globally, as a major challenge and expressed the hope that the production of vaccines and their administration would help bring a solution to the pandemic.
“ECOWAS countries are on course in the vaccination programme, and with support from ECOWAS through the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), we are helping to procure more vaccines”, he stated.
He said the pandemic has had a strong impact on the economy, noting that COVID-19 arrested the average annual growth rate of 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent in member states.
“Now we are not talking about growth; we are talking about recession of about 2 per cent,” he lamented.
He maintained that there are lessons ECOWAS needs to learn and steps to take so that the economies of member states can be rapidly re-launched.
“We need to strengthen our health systems, to train more people, to be able to put mechanisms to identify threats before they develop, reinforce the capacities of various institutions and also reinforce their capabilities in terms of equipment to be able to respond when we have those threats,” he said.