President Muhammadu Buhari has charged executives of banking institutions in West Africa to forge a closer collaboration with leaders to tackle economic challenges confronting the sub-region.
Speaking Tuesday while playing host to a delegation from the West African Bankers Association (WABA), led by its President, Thierno Seydou Nourou Sy, at the State House, Abuja, the President noted that the sub-region must find a common understanding and ground to address low access to financial services and recovery from post COVID-19 pandemic.
President Buhari told the 41 year-old association,which brings together over 250 commercial banks and 15 institutions from across West Africa, that for many centuries, African countries have traded with one another without a formalized and structured system.
He, however, noted that over time, global trade has become more complex and organized.
The President expressed confidence that the rollout of the African Continental Free Trade Area would be a turning point in how African countries trade with each other.
He said:”More importantly, we will turn the page in ensuring that we deepen and expand our industrial capabilities by making sure we export less of what we have been endowed with in primary or raw form, and convert larger portions of these resources into finished materials.
”That will allow us to benefit from the revenue earned from the added value of exporting a finished product”.
According to the President: ”Our ability to overcome the current phase of our development lies in our resolve to work jointly via our regional and sub-regional organizations where we can all reach a common understanding to fight against a common enemy.
”This is one of the reasons I am delighted with the strides ECOWAS has been making towards unanimity and forging alliances with a goal to resolve issues that confront the sub-region.
”I believe that this is also the approach that is being followed in the West African Bankers’ Association and the West African Monetary Union.”
Commenting on ongoing efforts to synchronize monetary and fiscal policies through WABA, President Buhari challenged the association to work towards finding a common ground, despite the unique macro-economic challenges that each member-state faces.
He pledged that Nigeria will always be ready to support efforts that are geared towards improving the lives of all its citizens ”as long as they do not place us at a disadvantage.”
Earlier in his address, WABA President lauded the lead role Nigeria plays in African economy, adding that President Buhari’s leadership was also well appreciated.
”That’s why we are here for counsel and guidance for the financial sector in West Africa,” he said.
Nourou Sy urged President Buhari to be an advocate for greater inclusion for WABA in ECOWAS structure, also noting that one of the challenges with the banking system is capacity building, and urging Nigeria to set up a training academy for the industry.