ECOWAS leaders reaffirm commitment to fight COVID-19

April 28, 2020

The Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) have reaffirmed their firm commitment to continue their joint and coordinated efforts in the determined fight against COVID-19 and to take the appropriate measures to contain the impact and revive the economies.

 ECOWAS leaders on Thursday, April 23rd held a videoconference summit with a view to coordinating and strengthening the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019, as well as discussed the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Through a communique signed by the ECOWAS President Issoufou MAHAMADOU, who doubles as President of the Republic of Niger, ECOWAS leaders decided that the containment, prevention and fight against COVID-19 remain a major priority.

‘‘In this regard, they reaffirmed their determination and willingness to do everything possible to protect citizens and residents of the Community and combine their efforts to find a lasting solution to the health crisis.”

The Summit commended Member States for their individual efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic in their countries and the palliative measures introduced to alleviate the negative impact of the pandemic on the people.

The Heads of State and Government commended the Chairperson of the Authority and the President of the Commission for convening the Extraordinary Summit.

Leaders were deeply concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in the ECOWAS region, which, as at 22 April 2020, had a cumulative number of 6,083 cases consisting of 4,232 active cases, 1,793 recoveries and 158 deaths.

According to the communique, leaders were also concerned about the negative social, economic, financial and human security impact of COVID-19 on all ECOWAS Member States, as well as the serious threat posed to the regional integration process and regional peace and security agenda.

“The Authority noted the forecasts which indicate that the economic growth rate, initially projected at 3.3%, would fall to 2% if the pandemic were to end in June 2020. It would fall to -2.1% assuming that the region had not taken adequate measures to slow down the spread of the virus and if the pandemic continues beyond the second half of 2020 as projected by IMF. The Authority also took note of the estimated overall reduction of financial resources for the whole economy occasioned by the pandemic at the regional level,” the communique reads.

The Heads of State and Government commended the appropriate initiatives and actions taken by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), in coordination with ECOWAS Commission, to fight the pandemic.

They conveyed gratitude to all partners, particularly the African Union, African Development Bank, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, European Union, the G20, for the important initiatives taken to support the African continent in the fight against the pandemic.

“In addition, the Authority saluted the unity and solidarity at the regional and continental levels, in particular the coordinated efforts of the African Union, through the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for the COVID-19 Outbreak. The Summit commended and thanked all people of the region for their efforts and the compliance with laid down procedures and preventive measures aimed at checking the spread of the virus. They saluted the important contribution made by the citizens, particularly the private sector, in the fight against the COVID 19.’’

They decided to invite ECOWAS member states to make their contribution to the African Union Solidarity Fund and strengthen cooperation between the African CDC and the WAHO in order to make support to the ECOWAS member states more effective;

They also decided to strengthen cooperation between member states in research, training and experience sharing in health matters in general, and in the fight against COVID 19 in particular, assess the situation thoroughly, on a case-by-case basis, before lifting the measures put in place to protect the population.

They further decided to provide WAHO with timely epidemiological information on a daily basis in order to enhance regional coordination and collaboration during the pandemic, sensitize the population on the dangers of COVID-19 and need for behavioural change, in order to contain the spread and break the chain of transmission of the disease;

Leaders decided to  increase testing, continuously trace and treat people suspected of contracting the virus,open humanitarian transport corridors for medical and other personnel in the fight against the pandemic, to enable them transport and deliver required personnel, equipment and materials, and allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budget to strengthen their health care systems as recommended by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in its Extraordinary Summit held on 6 November 2014 in Accra, Republic of Ghana, which is contained in Directive A/DIR. 01/11/14 on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Region.

They arrived at a decision to encourage Member States to pool, as far as possible, their purchases of equipment and drugs to combat COVID 19, continue to put in place humanitarian and palliative measures to assist their population, particularly through the distribution of foodstuffs and provision of financial assistance to the poor in strict compliance with the necessary health measures.

In the area of economic recovery and stablisation, they decided to develop jointly, a response plan taking into account the fight against the spread of the pandemic and a post-pandemic economic recovery plan, issue long-term treasury bills and bonds to finance critical investment needs, to support the private sector and revive economies, provide substantial support to the social sectors (distance learning tools, and strengthening of health systems and facilities, easy Internet access, etc.) and for the most disadvantaged segments of society (social safety nets),deploy through the Central Banks, tools, means and significant liquidity to support.

Leaders agreed on the strengthening of the financial sector, in particular banks and financial institutions, in providing assistance to the private sector, especially small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs),microfinance institutions in providing support to the informal sector,mobilise additional resources from the international community to address the economic and social challenges confronting Member States, support the African Union’s initiative to negotiate with partners for cancellation of Public debt and restructuring of private debt of African countries, and implement urgent measures to support the local production of consumer goods, including agricultural products, thereby reducing the import bill for these goods.

They decided to set up a support programme for the pharmaceutical and health protection equipment manufacturing sector, whose output covers barely 20% of the region’s current consumption needs, avoid the imposition of import restrictions on other ECOWAS countries, particularly with regard to essential goods (drugs, food, etc.), and convene a meeting of the Convergence Council to consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications on macroeconomic convergence performance in 2020 and

The Authority also invites all the relevant partners to accelerate efforts for production of vaccines and adequate therapy against the virus, as well as support the region in the development of research capacity. In addition, Authority calls on them to ensure provision of vaccines at subsidized prices, to the affected countries including ECOWAS Member States.